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Literature / Magic Shop
aka: The Monsters Ring

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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.
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The series consists of five full-length books and three short stories:

  • The Monster's Ring (1982; revised 2002)
  • "Watch Out!" (1987)note 
  • Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (1991)
  • Jennifer Murdley's Toad (1992)
  • The Skull of Truth (1997)
  • "The Metamorphosis of Justin Jones" (1997)note 
  • Juliet Dove, Queen of Love (2003)
  • "The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado" (2008)note 


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The overall series provides examples of:

  • The Ageless: The Immortal Vermin, introduced in Jennifer Murdley's Toad. 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • End of an Age: The former magical age of the earth is implied in both Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher and Juliet Dove, Queen of Love.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: The premise of the series basically.
  • 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.
  • Trickster Mentor: Elives, who overlaps with Eccentric Mentor at times.

The Monster's Ring provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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, and Mr. Elives says that no, he doesn't care and Russell has to get out of his shop. 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.)
  • Orwellian Retcon: The Monster's Ring was revised twenty years after its original publication. Among the revisions was the addition of an appearance from the rats Jerome and Roxanne, who tell Russell off for trying to find Elives' shop again when he doesn't really need to - he has the directions for his purchase, and that's really all he needs now.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Russell read but didn't pay attention to the final warning for the Monster's Ring - don't twist it three times, and never use it on the full moon. He breaks both rules in the end, with permanent consequences. Namely, he's stuck transforming on every full moon for the rest of his life.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: What happens if you turn the monster's ring three times.
  • Transformation Trinket: The monster's ring.

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher' provides examples of:

  • Big, Friendly Dog: Jeremy Thatcher's family has a large golden retriever named Grief.
  • Black Comedy: When Jeremy hesitates about buying chicken livers for Tiamat, she sends him an image of the family hamsters turned on their sides and in goblets. She also sends the thought of "YUMMY" when he realizes a cat is missing.
  • Body to Jewel: Dragons weep diamonds.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: You have discipline with drawing but no talent, and there's a student of yours who is unfocused in class but highly talented. So of course you pick on him at any opportunity you get, for the crime of being a kid and better than you.
  • Dragon Rider: Jeremy, once Tiamat gets large enough.
  • Height Angst: Jeremy hates being short, and can't wait to grow out of it.
  • 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 BSoD: 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.
  • Jerkass Realization: Jeremy's art teacher when Jeremy asks, "Why do you hate me?" after trying to confess about the hotfoot. 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.
  • 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.
  • Trash of the Titans: Jeremy's room is usually a mess, to the point where his mother's started leaving his clean laundry outside the door instead of trying to cross his floor.

Jennifer Murdley's Toad provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

The Skull of Truth provides examples of:

  • Been There, Shaped History: The Skull of Truth is actually a friend of William Shakespeare and the actual Yorick/skull used in Hamlet.
  • Black Comedy: Yorick is a talking skull that convinces Charlie to steal him, though Charlie does it by accident. Yorick is good at making light of the situation.
  • 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.
  • Community-Threatening Construction: In The Skull of Truth, Harley Evans wants to drain Tucker's Swamp and build an "industrial park", really a collection of factories. Initially, much of the town is all for it (and some still are even after the truth about it comes out). In truth, it could mess up the town's water tables, cause several wells to go dry and two species to go extinct, and the project is in violation of several federal wetlands laws. On finding this out, many people turn against the project, ending the threat it poses.
  • Dem Bones: Yorick the skull in The Skull of Truth. He's immobile, but telepathic.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Mark started bullying Charlie after trying to apologize for the frog incident that labeled Charlie as a liar, only for Charlie to spit at him.
  • Hide Your Gays: Averted; Charlie's uncle comes out of the closet on Thanksgiving.
  • Karma Houdini: 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.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Gilbert from The Skull of Truth.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Self-Serving Memory: While Mark bears the brunt of the responsibility for his and Charlie's broken friendship (he did lie, and certainly didn't have to start bullying Charlie afterwards, after all), Charlie is not entirely innocent, as he spat at Mark when he tried to apologize after the frog incident. Charlie legit does not remember doing this until Mark brings it up years later.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Juliet Dove, Queen of Love provides examples of:

  • Clingy MacGuffin: Helen of Troy's amulet.
  • 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.
  • Imaginary Friend: Juliet Dove's little sister Clarice has Mr. Toe, a giant big toe with eyes (and hands, but only for their neighbor Arturo). Temporarily crosses over into Not-So-Imaginary Friend territory when the goddess Athena pretends to be Mr. Toe in order to have Clarice help her write a note for Juliet.
  • Immortal Immaturity: Subverted - many of the Greco-Roman gods have matured significantly in the time since their myths took place. Hera specifically clarifies that they are not in fact immortal - though they believed it of themselves at the time - merely extremely long-lived, and their actions that are recorded in myth occurred during their equivalent of adolescence, which lasted much longer than that of humans. And just like many humans, they have since grown up and come to look back on their thoughtless actions during that time with shame and regret. Played straight with Eris, who Hera sadly notes possesses "the very human trait of never managing to grow up at all."
  • 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.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Juliet Dove's older sister Margaret has two slugs (including Smitty, her first) and three snails, whom she keeps in what she calls a "Sluggarium".
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Margaret Dove has a habit of changing her hair color almost every day, including to blue or green.

The short stories provide examples of:

  • Clingy Costume: The titular mask from The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado, if you break the rules (such as eating or drinking while wearing it). Fortunately, Eamonn Tiyado himself can get it back off.
  • 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.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: The protagonist of Watch Out! didn’t read the full manual for his latest trick (in part because his mother interrupted him before he could finish), a cave-like toy which makes things disappear (but cannot return them), which gets him in trouble when he makes his father's watch disappear and can't get it back. The gnome that the "disappearing" objects are sent to notes that nine out of ten people who use it are the same way.
  • 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.

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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