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The Wizard of Washington Square Mass Market Paperback – 31 Mar 2005
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David scoffs at the inane girl, but soon they encounter THE WIZARD OF WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK, who explains he is a second rate failure, which is why he has been exiled to the land of non-believers. He proves his incompetence when he accidentally turns D. Dog into a statue. Before the Wizard can figure out how to rectify his blunder, antiques dealer Mr. Pickwell steals the statue to sell it. David and Leilah team up to retrieve D. Dog while the Wizard works on a reversal spell.
THE WIZARD OF WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK is a fantastic urban fantasy that the elementary school crowd and their parents will enjoy. The story line enchants the audience as David and Leilah become friends while trying to rescue his dog from a terrible fate. The Wizard will remind readers of Oz as he bungles spells. Jane Yolen entertains her young readers with a fine friendship fantasy.
This book leaves the impression that Yolen succumbed to an editor's pleadings to write something for the Harry Potter crowd. The plot involves a little 3-foot tall wizard who lives in the arch in New York's Washington Square Park. Since we used to live a block away and play in the playground there, we thought this would be great! But Yolen doesn't have much of a feel for New York (the author's note says she lives in Massachusetts and Scotland); she seems to think the park is still full of beatniks and old men playing chess.
Several details give the sensation that Yolen's heart is just not in this - the kid picks up the marble dog-sized statue and carries it around; a magical table "the size of a door" goes through a subway turnstile without difficulty or comment.
The plot is mild in the extreme; it involves two kids who make friends with the wizard, who deems himself "second class" for reasons that are not explained, and who somehow changes the hero's dog into a marble statue. An evil Snidely-Whiplash-style art dealer villain snaps up the dog statue to tell in his shop; the kids and the wizard try to get it back. As a measure of the speed at which the plot moves, I'll point out that several pages of this modest 78-page novel are devoted to a petition drive. I've yet to meet a kid thrilled or entertained by a petition drive!
Readers are advised to stick to Yolen's picture books, which have charm, poetry, and wit.