Derek Willow, one of four kids in the family at the center of this book, really wants to ask his parents for money for a train ticket to visit his friends in his old neighborhood, whom he has been missing since his family’s move to the country. Just when he gets ready to ask, though, the lawn mower dies, and Mr. Willow has no choice but to buy a new one. Before Mr. Willow has a chance to go shopping, though, Derek, his brother Abner, and their sisters, Tate and Celia discover an old lawn mower in the shed that all of them realize has some magical powers. They convince their father to pay them if they can mow the lawn using this old mower, and he agrees, figuring they’ll never be able to mow the huge lawn with such an old, weak tool. While the Willow parents are out looking for their new mower, the four kids take on the unknown magical mower in an effort to earn the cash Derek needs for his trip.
The title and cover of this book led me to believe it would be a gimmicky and hokey installment in a forthcoming long train of formulaic series books about magical household objects. I was truly surprised by the high quality of the writing and the characterizations of each of the kids, as well as the family unit as a whole. As in books like Half Magic and Bigger than a Breadbox, the story is essentially realistic fiction, with just one added magical element. The author does a great job of developing the very real financial issues the family faces right alongside the fantastical magical element. I also thought the lawn mower’s behavior was creative and fun. I especially loved the idea that the mower craves grass, and that it moves more quickly the more it consumes.
There are a few references in the story to the first book in the series, Hamster Magic, but only enough to make me interested in going back to read it, nothing so cryptic that I was confused or lost. The ending is certainly not given away, nor are the events of the first book necessary to the reader’s understanding of this book’s magic. In fact, that is probably the only complaint I have about the story - that I did not learn where the magic comes from. I suppose the reader doesn’t absolutely have to know that, but I feel like the story set me up so that I would want to know and then didn’t tell me. I suspect, though, that kids are more apt to just accept magic, and it might be that they won’t feel they need the explanation.
This quick, illustrated chapter book is great for new chapter book readers looking for magical stories beyond the Rainbow Magic and Magic Tree House series. The writing is stronger than in many series books being published right now, and I hope there will be more volumes to follow.
I borrowed Lawn Mower Magic from my local public library.