Tricky Nick (Nicholas J Johnson, illus by Russell Jeffery, Pan)
I’m usually suspicious of books written by performers, celebrities or adult writers turning to children’s fiction, but Tricky Nick won me over in the first 20 pages. Magician-turned-author Nicholas J Johnson ostensibly recounts his life history, but this ‘completely true, not-at-all-made-up story’ quickly expands to include time travel, a magnificently pompous villain and the imminent threat of spaghettification (it’s a time travel thing—you’ll understand when you read the book). Nick gradually learns the tricks of his trade, encouraged by his mysterious mentor Trixie, and shares some of his secrets with well-illustrated examples. Our young aspiring magician emphasises that hard work and preparation are the keys to success in any hobby or task, along with a healthy dose of humility and humour. Johnson obviously has a clear memory of what it’s like to be a child in a grown-up world, giving clear explanations without being condescending. There’s also an acknowledgement that magic has been a male-dominated field for too long, and in a ‘quick word about girls’ Johnson highlights the inequity of men-only magic clubs. The short chapters, cheeky tone and rollicking action will lure reluctant readers in, but I think any 8–12-year-old with an interest in magic and adventure would enjoy this embellished autobiography. It will particularly appeal to fans of Adam Cece or Neil Patrick Harris.
Annie Waters sells books, writes about books and podcasts about books.