In Christian Roulland Kueng’s debut novel for middle-graders, a ten-year old girl suddenly finds herself in the company of genie triplet brothers.
Young Brianna is having a nice, relaxing visit with her grandparents when she begins to hear voices that are soon engaging her in conversations. Are they ghosts? Figments of her imagination? She doesn’t know. Then, while flipping through a book from her grandfather’s library, she sees a picture of an amethyst bottle and realizes there’s one just like it on the shelf. Picking up the bottle, she inadvertently summons the three genies.
Soon, Brianna finds herself trapped in the bottle with the three boys and their kindly parents. While she delights in experiencing the everyday genie world — zipping around on flying carpets, watching camel races, playing with tiger cubs — she is also heartsick knowing that her parents and grandparents are devastated by her disappearance. The loss is especially painful as it is revealed that years before, Brianna’s aunt, too, went suddenly missing and was never found.
Another plot line that begins about halfway through the book complicates things and overshadows the main storyline with Brianna. And some scenes — the boys’ birthday party, a camel race, a visit from two aunts — simply go on too long, thereby slowing the pace and clogging the story with extraneous details and dialogue. A bit of editing would streamline and strengthen this story.
Kueng’s real forte is his ability to create memorable characters. Young readers will delight in the triplets’ antics and occasional funny quips and admire them for their chutzpah. The triplets’ two unmarried aunts who “smell funny” are hysterical. Equally effective is the author’s power of description; the genie world he has concocted is textured and richly detailed. And the ending brings a terrific surprise — one that middle-grade readers are bound to appreciate.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.