Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job
Author: Katie Davis
Pages: 40
Publisher/Date: Harcourt/2003
ISBN: 015-2163077
Age Levels: 5-8

Book Review

So begins this fascinating fable. And a true fable it is, woven through with supernatural elements, talking animals, and illustrating a universal truth. The ever-present fog seems a metaphor for evil. It is everywhere in the tale: "It clung to the crumbling city walls . . . It muffled the sound of pealing church bells calling the weary faithful to apprehensive prayers."

Most of the action takes place at the bottom of Clutterbuck Lane in a dilapidated, two-story stone house. There lives Thorston, an old alchemist, who is trying to create "philosopher’s stones" that would restore his youth and keep him forever young. The formula for the stones comes from the book without words—a book he had stolen some seventy-three years before when he was a young boy. The book contains other "dark magic," including a recipe for making gold. The pages in the book are blank and can only be read by a "green-eyed reader filled with great desire."

The recipe for the stones calls for, among other things, the breath of a young person and a black raven’s feather. Odo, the talking raven, provides the feather. The breath is that of a young servant girl named Sybil, whom Thorston recently took in.

Thorston must swallow one of the stones at a time, pausing for a time in between. During this "in between" time he appears to die and is buried. It is during this time that Sybil and Odo, with the help of a green-eyed child, try to unlock the secrets held in the book with no words. Unbeknownst to Sybil and the raven, when Thorston swallows the final stone they will die.

Thorston has spent the last seventy three years in preparation for this moment—and it has not been easy. To the raven he rants, "Have you any idea how difficult it has been to preserve myself for this moment? To avoid accidents, illness, and violence. Think how hard it is to keep oneself from death!" To which the raven replies, "Ah, Master . . . what good was that life, if, by avoiding death, you didn’t live?"

Thorston is not the only person who desires the book without words. A monk named Brother Wilfrid has been trying for decades to find and obtain the book.

Making things even more difficult for Thorston is the town reeve Ambrose Bashcroft, "the man in charge of the city’s law and order." Bashcroft’s silent partner is Mistress Weebly, the town apothecary. It is through her that Bashcroft learns of Thorston’s attempts to make gold, which, according to the law, is illegal.

At its heart The Book Without Words is a story of discovery: Who and what can be trusted? Is money the ultimate possession? What makes a life worth living?

The writing is superb; there is never a false moment. From the first page, the words of this richly atmospheric and suspenseful tale will pull readers into its medieval world.

Classroom Use: We took the book into a sixth-grade classroom where we read it aloud. It was a tremendous hit and the students begged to make a "Reader's Theater" script out of it. When we asked one young boy (a reluctant reader) what he liked best about the book he replied, "Everything!" You can't get a better recommendation than that.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2005 Education Oasis

About the Author

Avi has written many novels for young readers, several of which have garnered prestigious awards, including two Newbery Honors and the 2003 Newbery Medal for Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Be sure to visit the author's website.