By Lissa Evans
Published by Doubleday
ISBN 978 0 385 61828 1
Stuart Horten (10 years old, but looks younger) has moved with his doctor mother and crossword compiler father to the small town of Beeton, where Great-Uncle Tony lived before he disappeared. Tony was a magician who perfected a set of mind-blowing illusions, and whose magic workshop was a place of wonder.
Stuart knows that on his death, Uncle Tony intended to leave his magic tricks and everything in his workshop to his grand-nephew, but he has no proof. What happened to Tony? Could his stage illusions hold clues to his disappearance?
Lissa Evans has been a stand-up comedian and a comedy producer, and her sense of humour and fun come through on every page of the delightful Big Change for Stuart. This is Evans' second novel about Stuart and Tony, but readers who haven't read Small Change will pick up the story without any problem. Both books are magical mystery adventures that are funny and exciting reads for younger readers, but which older brothers and sisters can sneakily enjoy guilt-free.
Uncle Tony's workshop has been moved to Beeton Museum for safekeeping until his disappearance is solved and his will found. This doesn't stop resourceful Stuart in his quest to discover more about Uncle Tony and his work. Stuart has his work cut out to reclaim what is rightfully his, while also digging out Tony's secrets.
Each of the illusions Tony devised does, in fact, hide a very big secret. They're not illusions at all, but pieces of apparatus that can do real magic. Each of the tricks take Stuart and his bossy friend April on a magical adventure with clues to work out and puzzles to solve.
Evans unravels Tony's secrets in a well-paced plot that keeps readers in suspense. Each adventure is a mini-story in itself, and all the time clues are piling up for Stuart while at the same time the dangers mount. By the time Stuart investigates the last illusion, the reader really is on the edge of their seat.
Big Change for Stuart is also strong in terms of character. Stuart is a winning hero, and April gets herself fully involved in everything he does. Stuart's dad, the crossword puzzle compiler, thinks every sentence uttered should be a crossword clue, and this adds many laugh-out-loud moments.
Evans is a talented writer remember the name and watch out for more.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com