Dr. Merlin's Magic Shop
Scott Corbett ~ Joe Mathieu ~ Little, Brown, 1973
I'm such a sucker for vintage children's books, that even a crummy-old-yellowing paperback won't turn me off... no matter how brittle and fragile the pages are. I did my best with these scans, but sometimes, the signs of age are just too difficult to Photoshop. That said, you all know I have a soft spot for Joe Mathieu because of his Sesame Street legacy. I had so many of his books when I was young, and even now I still enjoy his cartoonish style. Well, let me introduce you to my son's favorite Mathieu book, crummy and browning though it might be.... and a wee bit scary.
Nick loves magic tricks and fog. So when Nick looks out the window to find the foggiest day ever, he takes his dog, Bert, on a walk that leads them to...
All at once he stopped. He saw a shop he had never seen before.
The sign on it said: DR. MERLIN'S MAGIC SHOP.
"Hey, Bert!" he said "Here's a new shop, and it's a magic shop!
I'll bet Dr. Merlin sells all kinds of magic tricks! I'm going in!"
He walked to the door. But on the door were two small signs.
One said: CLOSED. The other said: MOVING.
"Darn it all, anyway!"
Nick then takes the back alley to see if anyone inside the shop can tell him where the mysterious store is moving to. Enter, Dr. Merlin, who--right from the start-- gives you the creeps when he asks Nick menacingly if he can use Bert for his "scrambled dogs" magic trick, wherein he would attempt to halve Bert with a poodle. When Nick protests in horror, the good doctor tries to poison him with you-will-obey-my-every-command gumdrops. Nick uses his smarts to trick the doctor and escape, but when he runs onto the street to find the store front and flag a cop, the shop evaporates as mysteriously as it appeared.
Dr. Merlin is pretty skin-crawling, but I love the fact that Nick doesn't let fear consume him, and is able to outwit the dastardly demon. The conclusion has my son jumping up and screaming in delight every time. Reading this book gives me the same excited creeps that the top-hatted spy from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gave me as a child. Awesome. Which reminds me of another, not-so-awesome pop culture memory, the Different Strokes "very special" episode when Arnold and his bud Dudley are cajoled into drinking wine and watching dirty cartoons by a creepy bike shop owner... shudder. Anyways, I digress.
If you are looking for a book to reinforce the "never talk to strangers" message, this one should do the trick.
Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum
The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook
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