The story of a young girl of nine who likes doing magic tricks, has many friends, a small dog called Daisy and lives in an apartment with her father, Harvey Wong. But Phyllis Wong is more than this. She becomes a brilliant sleuth who helps the Chief Inspector solve some baffling robberies. One of the twin blue Wren bookends – rare and priceless pieces of pottery done by the very esteemed reclusive potter Gladys Reyscombe – has been stolen and replaced with a fake. This has mysteriously happened under the very eyes of the shop-keeper who has no explanation. And a precious Duckworth diamond has been stolen from the museum. Replay of CCT security videos reveals to detectives a seemingly illogical situation: the precious jewelry seems to just disappear before their very eyes, with no ropes and no interference to the video of any kind.
This book captured my interest from the very first pages and managed to keep me interested throughout. Settings in the story are perfect for magic and adventure. Antique looking pictures, oriental looking pictures, trunks, cylinders and chests with props that had false bottoms and trap doors…all these both astound and amaze Phyllis who marvels at their ingenuity. A touch of family history is brought into the story with Phyllis’s great-grandfather who used to be a conjurer and magician and previously lived in Phyllis’s apartment. His presence is felt constantly throughout the story.
The writing is very imaginative and the author clearly has a passion for his characters. We see the character of Phyllis moved by events, challenged, and affected. We are even drawn into the sleeping mind of the character Phyllis when the past has fragments that reach out to her as she is sleeping through “the silent wisps of her dreams.” The reader is drawn in to feel like he is really there with Phyllis as she wakes from the dream with a new determination to unravel the secrets of the robberies. Small parts of the story do seem to jar a bit and reduces it at times to a slightly comic style such as when Phyllis is almost mown down by the villain driving a street sweeper. Yhere was not much build-up to this event which happens rather suddenly in the narrative.
The writing style is both imaginative and encourages young readers to be scholarly sleuths with footnotes about archived movies from her great-grandfather’s collection. I found the last part of the story about the magic tricks a bit challenging keeping up with how Phyllis actually did her tricks! However, children may catch on more quickly! There is an explanation to the tricks in the story but the author has set himself a difficult task describing a magic or conjuring/illusion trick. It is always a challenge to describe an illusionist trick with words only. However, it is a challenge that persistent young minds can aim to comprehend. There is a website for Phyllis Wong at www.phylliswong.com
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.