Note: This book is titled Russell Troy, Monster Boy in some markets.
For kids that are too young for the complexity of the HARRY POTTER series, and yet still interested in fantasy stories, Bruce Coville‘s MAGIC SHOP books might be the thing to hook them up with. Five in total, each one revolves around a simple premise: a young child with the usual kid problems (home trouble, bullies, crushes, angry teachers, etc) stumble across Mr Elives’ Magic Shop, and leaves with an unusual purchase which initially creates more trouble for them, but ultimately teaches them important lessons.
They’ve recently been reissued with new cover art by Tony DiTerlizzi (best known as the illustrator of THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES) and according to the author’s afterword, he took the opportunity to make a few revisions in the text itself, creating more continuity between each story. His goal with this particular book was to write “the perfect Halloween story”, with plenty of “fright and fun, horror and humour.”
Russell is a big fan of Halloween and all its assorted monsters, but spends most of his days trying to avoid the school bully. One evening he escapes Eddie by ducking into a Magic Shop filled with strange paraphernalia. Its owner Mr Elives presents him with something called “The Monster’s Ring.” According to the piece of paper that comes with it:
Twist it once, you’re horned and haired;
Twist it twice and fangs are bared;
Twist it thrice? No one has dared!
Soon he’s having great fun transforming himself into a hideous monster and terrorizing teachers and bullies alike. But all gifts come with a price, and soon Russell has to confront the consequences of his actions. Coville focuses on Russell’s relationship with his parents, provides a more sympathetic view of Eddie (most bullies are bullied themselves) and examines the advantages and disadvantages of turning into a monster. There’s a lot of stuff packed into an otherwise slender little book, with plenty of jokes and moments of poignancy along the way.
Outside the US, The Monster’s Ring may be published as Russell Troy, Monster Boy and The Skull of Truth may be published as Charlie Eggleston’s Talking Skull.