When Georgia Byng let Molly Moon loose with Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism five years ago, it looked like a one-off book. It was a story about a girl finding a book on hypnotism, learning it and having a whale of an adventure. What could Book 2 have, one wondered?
Between 2003 and October 2007, Byng quickly followed up the first book with four books about Molly Moon’s adventures. In Molly Moon Stops the World and Molly Moon’s Hypnotic Holiday, Molly learns a new trick—she can stop the world. And in this one, Micky Minus and the Mind Machine, she discovers she has the power to read minds.
Good fun if you don’t start analysing the book too deeply. Eleven-year-old Molly and best friend Rocky are spending a lazy holiday with her mother when she is seized by a sudden urge to locate her twin, Micky, who was stolen at birth. What follows is a furious ride back and forth in time. Both adventurers and Molly’s pug, Petula, go back 11 years, spot the criminal in the act and follow him, fast forwarding themselves 500 years into the future.
Year 2500 is quite different from what they have left behind. Global warming has melted the Polar ice caps and northern Europe is an icy mass. Flycopters and magnifloats have replaced planes and trains, chopsticks have replaced forks and spoons on dinner tables. The Chinese are everywhere, and rule the world in a subtle way. They control businesses, are in important jobs and, by sheer weight of population, manage many countries.
Micky’s kidnapper leads the trio to the evil princess Fang, a child-woman (she is six years old) who is artificially kept young. Fang needs Micky because he is a natural hypnotist. And he is the one who can help her in her evil designs. To make matters worse for Molly and friends, Fang has a brain-zapping mind machine that she is willing to use quite freely. Things get sticky as Molly gets captured and loses her powers of hypnotism. A slightly drawn-out narration is the minus point of this book. The reader is left waiting for when—not whether—Molly is going to get back home after rescuing Micky.
Byng’s first book drew comparisons with J.K. Rowling. From being a struggling young actor with a daughter to look after, the subsequent film rights and deals stunned even the author herself. Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism charmed its young audience. Apparently the idea came when Byng was having tea and biscuits. A black spaniel sitting at her feet seemed fascinated by the biscuit moving in her hand. “I started to move the biscuit from side to side, and he just looked hypnotized. So, it was then that it happened really. It was like a light bulb—‘Bing!’,” she said in an interview to a child reporter from Time for Kids magazine.
Aimed at eight- to 13-year-olds, Molly Moon swept readers off their feet. But after four books, Byng seems to have lost a bit of the steam of old. Molly sounds a bit jaded in Micky Minus… But the magic does work in some places. And the book seems to be going great guns in India. Byng, too, has an India connection. She loves holidaying in Kerala and eating “Keralan” paratha with butter chicken. She has also thrown in a pet elephant called Amrit in the book.
The writer is the editor of Heek (e-heek.com), a children’s magazine. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org