Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism
By Georgia Byng
A rather popular children's novel, wedged somewhere between science fiction and fantasy. It is one of the many light-hearted books written about maltreated orphans discovering that they have Special Powers. It is written for children around the age 9-14, and unlike some books of the sub-genre, probably will not appeal much to older readers.
Molly Moon is an orphan in one of the less pleasant orphanages in England. As the story opens, the headmistress catches her wasting water and punishes her by assigning her to clean the toilets for a week -- with her toothbrush. And while this is normal, it is not necessarily the worst part of her life; some of the older kids are horrible bullies, as is her schoolteacher. We don't have to hear about the horribleness of orphanage life for long, however, because Molly stumbles on a book of hypnotism in the local library... which works. Really well.
She hypnotises the orphanage's mean dog, then the mean cook, her mean teacher, and eventually the mean headmistress. Along the way she finds out that some of them aren't really that bad. And some of them are. Of course, soon she starts to hypnotise perfectly innocent strangers in order to get money and fame, and, of course, to thwart the Bad Guy who is after the book for his own nefarious purposes.
The plot of the book is not new or surprising, but the writing style is pleasant and the story moves along well. The primary positive point in the story (aside from the entertainment of being able to get whatever you want just by asking) is that Molly and her friends actually do end up spending some time thinking about personal development, how to improve the lives of others, what it feels like to be someone else, social manipulation in general, and the ethics of getting along in the world. Which is something you don't get a lot of in fifth grade novels -- particularly not in ones as light-hearted as this.
Overall, a pretty good book, but not one I particularly recommend to anyone over 14. It is fun and potentially educational, and we certainly need more books that integrate this sort of thinking and problem solving into their plots, so if your child is interested in slightly-silly, slightly-magical stories, I would certainly recommend that they read it.
This is the first of five books in the Molly Moon series. The next is Molly Moon Stops the World.