Published by Aladdin Paperbacks on June 1, 1993
Jennifer Murdley had no idea what she was getting into the day she bought the big toad from the strange man who ran Elives' Magic Shop. The thing didn't even start talking to her until she had it out of the shop. And once the toad did start to talk, it still kept a lot of secrets. So Jennifer didn't find out about his strange birth... or the treasure hidden in his forehead... or the witch who was out to get him... until she and her friends were in more trouble than they had ever dreamed of!
*gasp* A Magic Shop book that doesn’t hit over 4 nuts? What is the world coming to?
JENNIFER MURDLEY’S TOAD used to be my least favorite book in the series. Currently it waffles between this and JULIET DOVE, QUEEN OF LOVE. But when I originally read the series that book did not exist yet. JENNIFER MURDLEY’S TOAD was not a bad book, it still isn’t. But back then it was the hardest to find and the hardest to love.
Why you may ask? Jennifer is IRRITATING! Even 8 year old me was like “Dude, get a grip!” The big lesson of this installment in the series is simple: beauty on the inside is more important than beauty on the outside. Today we would call what Jennifer’s bullies do “body shaming”. She’s pudgy, she’s boxy, and she’s not beautiful. I’ve always found characters who are obsessed with their looks frustrating. Especially when they’re tempted towards bad things by the prospect of beauty. I’m sure for some kids this lesson was important, but for me they alway just fall flat.
On the other hand Buffo the Toad is one of Coville’s most amusing characters, but always beat out by The Skull of Truth. He’s sarcastic, he’s annoying, he’s sassy 9/10 times throughout the story.Just how I like my magical creatures. His backstory manages to be both ridiculous and sweet at the same time. This is something only a writer like Coville can manage.
Coville’s reading in the Full Cast Audio production is superb as always. As a kid listening to these “book on tapes” I never realized who the narrator was. Because the narrator is the author himself the comedic timing and tone are perfect. Since Full Cast Audio is Bruce’s company the casting for each part is so on point that I can overlook my usual dislike of Cast productions. I have a feeling I’d like most of Full Cast Audio’s audiobooks because of this.
While JENNIFER MURDLEY’S TOAD is not my favorite, it’s not a bad book. It’s sweet and funny, as all of Coville’s books I’ve read. I still enjoy myself when I read it. I just don’t click with it like I do the others. You can’t love everything an author puts out at the same level.
I recommend this book to young readers who like magic but especially young girls.
What’s your favorite Coville book? Share in the comments.
From my shelf to yours,