Literature / Magic Shop

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The books in this series in no particular order.
A series by Bruce Coville about a little shop that wasn't there yesterday run by a kooky old magician who sells magical items to children, preteens and teenagers in order to teach them life lessons.

Books in the series include: The Monster's Ring, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, Jennifer Murdley's Toad, The Skull of Truth, Juliet Dove, Queen of Love. Also in this series are the short stories The Metamorphosis of Justin Jones and Watch Out!.

This series provides examples of:

  • The Ageless: The Immortal Vermin. Bufo, the first of the Immortal Vermin to appear, says he can be killed, but barring such an incident, he will live forever. Jerome and Roxanne, the youngest of the Immortal Vermin, inform the protagonists of "The Skull of Truth" and "Juliet Dove, Queen of Love" of their status as "killable, but otherwise undying".
  • Anachronic Order: Jennifer Murdley's phone is mentioned in Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, which was published before Jennifer Murdley's Toad. Also the dragon's egg is seen by Jennifer while she's in the shop getting her toad, implying that the books are not published in a strict chronological order.
  • Baleful Polymorph: When Jennifer Murdley's toad kisses a human, the human gets transformed into a toad. Strangely, if he kisses the transformed toad again, the toad merely grows bigger. The only way to cure the transformation is to have another human kiss you, but the catch is that the person who kisses you gets transformed into a toad in your place. Size doesn't transfer over to other people.
    • Notably, this trope also plays out in reverse in the same book: there is in fact a toad that was turned into a human and isn't terribly happy about it.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For
  • Been There, Shaped History: The Skull of Truth is actually a friend of William Shakespeare and the actual Yorick/skull used in Hamlet.
  • Blessed with Suck: Usually the things bought from the shop have some very significant drawbacks. The monster's ring will put you in Shapeshifter Mode Lock, the dragon hatchling is highly conspicuous and you don't get to keep it anyway, the toad comes with an evil sorceress trying to reobtain it, the skull literally forces you to tell the truth no matter the circumstances, and the love charm makes all members of the opposite sex obsess insanely over you (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered style). Only the sleeping bag doesn't come with a massive amount of suck along with its bless, and even then, probably because there wasn't a whole book to explore it. The only drawback of the sleeping bag is that it forces you to choose between never growing up and returning to the arguably Crapsack World.
  • Body to Jewel: Dragons weep diamonds.
  • Brutal Honesty: Truth is the literal embodiment of this trope. Yorick as a spell compels this in everyone, including those that tell little lies to hide bad thoughts.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: In The Skull of Truth, Yorick was "blessed" with the inability to lie. This led him to become a jester, the only position in which one could tell the king the truth and get away with it. It was implied this also led to his painful death, after which he became the title skull.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Helen of Troy's amulet.
  • Continuity Nod: In each book the protagonists notice certain items in the magic shop. As the series progresses, protagonists no longer describe items that featured in previous books, presumably because they're no longer there.
  • Covers Always Lie: At least one edition of Jennifer Murdley's Toad has a cover depicting Bufo, the toad in question, ranting to Jennifer, who on this cover is depicted as an attractive-looking blonde girl. The problem is that, in the book itself, Jennifer is specifically described as being... well, not as hot as the girl on the cover, to put it mildly. The illustrations in the book, for the record, depict Jennifer as looking fairly unattractive and chubby. It's possible that the girl is meant to be Sharra, who is in fact described as blonde and attractive; even so it still fits, as Sharra is a secondary character who only directly reacts to Bufo a handful of times.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: All members of the opposite sex become this when you put on Helen of Troy's amulet.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: In Juliet Dove, Queen of Love, Juliet is asked if she'll recite a poem at their town's annual Valentine's Day Poetry Jam, and responds with "When rats fly!" A few days later, the talking rats Roxanne and Jerome wake up with wings (It Makes Sense in Context - they'd become temporary avatars of Cupid's power), and Juliet does indeed wind up reciting a poem at the Poetry Jam.
  • Curse Escape Clause: In Juliet Dove, Queen of Love, Juliet Dove gets a magic locket stuck around her neck. Because the locket magically causes all men to become obsessed with her and is the prison of Eros, god of love, she really wants to get rid of it. Unfortunately, she can't break the love spell on it until a "mouse roars like a lion" and can't get the locket off without a "mother's touch". The mouse roaring like a lion refers to her overcoming her shyness and improvising a poem in front of an auditorium of people. The mother's touch is fulfilled when Aphrodite, mother of Eros, touches the locket while acknowledging she was wrong to separate him from Psyche.
  • Dem Bones: Yorick the skull in The Skull of Truth. He's immobile, but telepathic.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
  • Dragon Rider: Once Tiamat gets large enough.
  • End of an Age: The former magical age of the earth is implied.
  • Fantastic Aesop
  • The Final Temptation: In Jennifer Murdley's Toad, the Big Bad witch tries a last-ditch effort to persuade Jennifer to hand over her magical toad by showing her a vision of her as a beautiful blonde and telling her that she has the power to give her the beauty she's always wanted. Just to drive the point home even further, the chapter in which this happens is titled "The Temptation of Jennifer Murdley". Jennifer manages to resist the temptation when Bufo reminds her of what Mr. Elives said about "mirrors are often illusions," and she smashes the mirrors and the witch with her giant tongue.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: In The Monster's Ring, the main character twists the ring twice ("Twist it once, you're horned and haired;/Twist it twice, and fangs are bared...") shortly before the school Halloween party and lets everyone assume the result was an incredibly good costume.
  • Here There Were Dragons: The vast majority moved to another dimension with the help of the wizard Bellenmore, since their native world was becoming increasingly unfriendly to dragons. Unfortunately their eggs can't hatch there.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Jeremy after he has to send Tiamat away. His parents are even worried when he stops drawing, and when he doesn't want to help Spencer paint a window store display like they promised.
  • Hide Your Gays: Averted; Charlie's uncle comes out of the closet on Thanksgiving.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: In Jennifer Murdley's Toad, Jennifer is a truly unattractive young girl. At one point when she was younger she saw a commercial for Barbie on TV and started crying. Subverted at the end of the novel, when Jennifer is shown a magical image in a mirror of how the witch can make her beautiful. All she has to do is hand over the magic toad. She destroys all of the mirrors, knowing she can never be that girl.
  • Jerkass Realization: Jeremy's art teacher when Jeremy asks, "Why do you hate me?" after trying to confess about the hot foot. This doesn't make him any more pleasant, however, just civil.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Jeremy's art teacher suffers little to no comeuppance for bullying him, blaming the entire class for a case of his foot getting set on fire (which was Jeremy's fault but also not the point) and being a Sadist Teacher. The only good thing he does in the book is wish Jeremy good luck on going to middle school after a Jerkass Realization.
    • Mark suffers nothing for stealing the Skull of Truth from the podium when Charlie used Yorick to out his father, or for getting Charlie in trouble when they were younger. He doesn't even have the nerve to apologize for setting a gang of kids on Charlie at the beginning of the book.
  • Literal Genie: Near the end of The Skull of Truth, the embodiment of Truth offers to truthfully answer any one question for each of the main characters. One of the characters asks about his father's future and the answer Truth gives him is something along the lines of, "He will grow old. He will be happy. He will be sad. He will die." When the character complains that the answer wasn't what he wanted, Truth tells him he should have been more specific with his question.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: The premise of the series basically.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Gilbert from The Skull of Truth.
  • Love Is in the Air: In Juliet Dove, Queen of Love, Juliet comes into possession of a necklace formerly owned by Helen of Troy. The necklace causes every boy in her school to fall in love with her (and cause a commotion by piling up in front of her house), and cannot be removed after being put on.
  • Mathematician's Answer: The personification of Truth answers Mark's question of what will happen to his father with something along the lines of "He will live, he will love, he will have successes and failures and then he will die."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Juliet: Referencing Romeo and Juliet.
    • Tiamat: The dragon that created the world in Mesopotamian mythology. One of the few in universe as well, as Jeremy explicitly names his pet dragon after the mythological one. Mr. Elives even compliments him on it when he eventually finds out, though he says that Tiamat must have had an ego for wanting that namesake.
    • S.H. Elives spells out "She Lives". Hmmm...
      • Word of God is that he's a moon wizard. The moon is typically regarded as female.
      • Mr. Elives also sounds exactly like 'mystery lives' when read aloud.
  • Metamorphosis: The Metamorphosis of Justin Jones is not actually a perfect example, despite the title. Justin gradually grows wings and gains the ability to fly, but he reverts back to normal after a night. He doesn't know this when he starts out, though.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: In The Monster's Ring, when Russell uses the ring wrong and gets Shapeshifter Mode Locked, the transformation actually makes him burst into flames, burning up his clothes. He eventually gets his human form back, but his clothes are gone for good. Fortunately it's very early morning, and he manages to race back home mostly unseen. (He tells his parents some older kids stole his clothes and burned them as a prank.)
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Yorick got cursed by the embodiment of Truth because he lied to her about how pretty she was. She lampshades that she's not a nice thing.
  • Oracular Head: Yorick in The Skull of Truth.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They speak telepathically using colours and they're fond of milk.
  • Passing Notes in Class: In Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, a girl named Mary Lou sends Jeremy a love note, but his art teacher, who has a habit of treating Jeremy poorly, snatches the note before Jeremy can even open it, then reads it aloud (and tears it up afterward), deliberately embarrassing him in front of his classmates. He also purposely doesn't say who sent the note, which Jeremy thinks to himself is probably because her father's on the school board.
  • Rejected Apology: The reason why Charlie became a Consummate Liar is that he got blamed at school for Gilbert putting a frog in his mouth, when it was Mark's fault. Mark came to apologize, without confessing to the teacher about what really happened, but Charlie spat at him because by then the damage was done and Charlie was labelled as a liar.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: What happens if you turn the monster's ring three times.
  • Shoot the Television: Jennifer Murdley was a very unattractive-looking girl. One day when she was six she was watching television and saw a commercial for a Barbie doll. Knowing she would never be as pretty as the doll, she started to cry. When her father saw her crying and realized why, he got so enraged at TV that he smashed it.
  • Sticky Fingers: Inverted; Charlie was compelled to steal Yorick because Yorick wanted to escape with him and planted the suggestion in his head.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Charlie became a Consummate Liar since no one would believe whatever he says anyway after the frog incident.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Gilbert, a boy with leukemia, meets the personification of Truth along with his friends in The Skull of Truth. They are all permitted to ask any question and receive an entirely truthful answer. Gilbert is about to ask whether or not he'll survive his leukemia, but decides this is something he would rather not know.
  • Transformation Trinket: The monster's ring.
  • Trickster Mentor: Elives, who overlaps with Eccentric Mentor at times.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Jennifer Murdley is an ugly girl with a nice personality. At the climax of the story she encounters a witch who offers to turn her "inside out," metaphorically speaking, so that her inner beauty will be on the outside, but upon thinking about this, Jennifer realizes that this would make her ugly on the inside, which she realizes would be worse. So she stays outwardly ugly (but a good person).
  • Truth Serum: The Skull of Truth has the main character come into possession of a talking skull that forces him to speak only the truth. He finds out, though, that there are different levels of truth (apparently jesters and poets are better at telling the truth more obtusely than others), and ultimately comes face-to-face with Truth him/her/itself, who describes itself as both destroyer and healer. At the end, the protagonist is gifted with the ability to compel people to tell the truth, whether they want to or not.
  • Truth-Telling Session: In The Skull of Truth, a truth-telling session happens around a Thanksgiving dinner table because the family is supernaturally compelled to be truthful.
  • Wings Do Nothing: Justin wanders into Elives' Magic Shop and ends up purchasing a home magic kit thematically inspired by the metamorphosis trick of stage magic shows. Rather than switching places with an assistant, he finds that it gives him wings- which don't work. He continues to follow the instructions, but grows increasingly agitated as it's becoming harder and harder to hide them from his abusive uncle, and they still don't let him fly, so his dreams of getting away from said uncle are as kaput as ever. Fortunately for our protagonist, he manages to keep them under wraps until he's finished the process, after which they fill out and do let him fly, and by the time his uncle finds out, he's already headed out the window.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: A non-villainous example— when Jennifer Murdley is transformed into a toad, Bufo reassures her that she'll have no problems trying to find someone to kiss her to break the spell, as she's "an exceptionally good-looking toad." Given that Jennifer's at that awkward stage and constantly agonizes over her looks, her reaction to Bufo's sincere compliment is less than positive, to his utter confusion.

Alternative Title(s): The Monsters Ring, The Skull Of Truth, Juliet Dove Queen Of Love, Jennifer Murdleys Toad, Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, The Metamorphosis Of Justin Jones

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