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Spell Book of Listen Taylor
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Spell Book of Listen Taylor

3.8 11
by Jaclyn Moriarty

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A fairytale, a mystery, a history of hot-air ballooning, and a romance . . . A novel so brilliant, moving, zingy -- and Zingy -- that it could only have come from Jaclyn Moriarty.

The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret -- one


A fairytale, a mystery, a history of hot-air ballooning, and a romance . . . A novel so brilliant, moving, zingy -- and Zingy -- that it could only have come from Jaclyn Moriarty.

The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret -- one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night.
Into their world comes socially isolated middle grader Listen Taylor, whose father is dating a Zing. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young woman connect? Only the reader can know!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A revised version of Moriarty's adult novel, I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes (not published in the U.S.), this whimsical though rigorously plotted novel offers an intellectual puzzle that may engage YA readers, but the lengthy, adult-centered narrative may test the patience of its target audience. The central mystery-discussed every Friday night by the Zing adults, behind the closed doors of a garden shed-has to do with a carefully guarded family secret that (as readers gradually learn) necessitates the constant surveillance of a young elementary-school teacher named Cath Murphy. Meanwhile, Listen Taylor, a motherless seventh-grader who lives with her father and his girlfriend Marbie Zing, discovers a book of magic spells. Casting spells intended to achieve such feats as make a vacuum cleaner break, Listen works her way through almost half the book before she notices the tiny promise on the back cover: "This Book Will Mend Your Broken Heart." The results of Listen's magic deliciously spike trenchant scenes that shift among the various (adult) couples and the role of the Zing Family Secret. Teens will easily relate to Listen's conflicts (intensified when her friends cast her out of their clique). However, Listen acts mostly as a supporting player; the perspectives remain mainly those of adults, and the heavy focus on extramarital affairs has more to do with midlife crises and discontent than adolescent issues. With its colorfully camouflaged themes of regret, this well-crafted novel may strike a less resonant chord with teens than with their parents. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Dawn Talbott
Listen Taylor, a young girl entering junior high, might not have any friends, but she does have an interesting lime-green book, a new home, and a new family. The Zings are a lovable group with plenty of oddities, quirks, and the huge Zing Family Secret to guard. Second grade schoolteacher Cath Murphy seems to be only remotely connected to this peculiar collection of people, but Cath does not realize that she is at the center of everything. Moriarty's lighthearted approach and brisk pace keep readers wondering what will come next. Many mysteries surrounding the Zing Family Secret are later resolved, leaving readers feeling satisfied after the denouement. The eccentric characters are a lot of fun, too, including Fancy, who visualizes hotel lobbies to relieve stress, and Marbie, who has many irrational fears (like thinking that a beach umbrella might fly across the sand and poke her eye out). Moriarty divides the text into several different parts, each with many chapters. There are also a few formal and informal breaks within the chapters. This arrangement lends itself well to readers who are only able to read in short bursts. The choppy style, however, might also be a stumbling block. Action leaps from setting to setting, sometimes moving backward in time to cover a different character, and it can be somewhat confusing. If readers can dig in and stick with the sometimes hard-to-follow story, this long, fun read will be worth the effort.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up This novel from the popular Aussie author is absurdly preposterous, delightfully whimsical and funny, and replete with wacky characters. The problem, however, is one of audience. Ostensibly, readers might assume that the book is for girls, like Listen Taylor, who are entering seventh grade. She and her dad have just moved in with Marbie Zing, whom Nathaniel is dating. Marbie meets with other members of the family every Friday night to discuss the Zing Family Secret. Readers aren't sure what that secret is for most of the book, but they do learn that it involves state-of-the-art surveillance and breaking and entering. While the portrayal of Listen's shunning by the clique of girls at school is right on, and Listen does find an old yet misguided spell book, this is not really her story. It is more the story of the Zing family: Marbie, who cheats on Nathaniel with an unnamed aeronautical engineer; Fancy, who suspects her husband of having an affair; and Maude, the matriarch, whose affair early in her marriage has spawned the Zing Family Secret. It is also Cath Murphy's story: second-grader Cassie Zing's brokenhearted teacher has an affair with a married teacher and is central to the Zing Secret. She is the baby of Maude and a famous actor. It is difficult to imagine that readers would be interested in Fancy's long "List of Irritating Things about My Husband," ("#2. During sex he talks in this low, husky voice....") or in all the extramarital, although not sexually explicit, bed swapping. A clever, fun romp, better suited for older teens.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Kirkus Reviews
Adult crossover that doesn't. This revised version of an Australian adult novel displays Moriarty's engagingly quirky writing, but unlike her previous U.S. publications (The Year of Secret Assignments, 2004; The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, 2006), this one lacks teen appeal. The "Zing Family Secret" necessitates weekly meetings in the garden shed, and the story follows several of the Zings and their associates through the year when the secret (mildly anticlimactic after the immense build-up) finally comes out. Seven-year-old Cassie and 12-year-old Listen are the only non-adult characters in an ensemble cast, and while Listen's (lonely and unpleasant) experiences in seventh grade do provide the catalyst for many plot developments, she is overshadowed by the adults. Most of the novel concerns secrets and infidelity; three separate affairs plus one imagined and their repercussions occupy center stage, and Moriarty skillfully examines desire, longing and forgiveness. Chick-lit-reading older teens might be willing to give this a try, but the focus on marriage and parenthood make it more likely to appeal to their mothers. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Jaclyn Moriarty grew up in Sydney, Australia, with 4 sisters, 1 brother, 2 dogs, and 12 chickens. She studied law at the University of Sydney, Yale, and Cambridge, and worked as an entertainment lawyer before she wrote the Ashbury High novels, including THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS, THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE, and THE GHOSTS OF ASHBURY HIGH. She still lives in Sydney, with her little boy, Charlie.

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Spell Book of Listen Taylor 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
12-year-old Listen Taylor, whose friends have decided to ditch her at the beginning of junior high, finds a spell book that claims it will mend her broken heart. Her father's girlfriend, Marbie Zing, struggles with her fears of losing her happiness and makes a terrible mistake. Marbie's sister, Fancy, speculates about her marriage as she works with Marbie to maintain their family secret. And Cath, a young teacher, falls for a married co-worker and discovers her life has a lot more to it than she ever suspected.

These four stories intertwine in THE SPELL BOOK OF LISTEN TAYLOR. Jaclyn Moriarty skillfully weaves together the narratives over the course of a school year, drawing the characters closer and closer together, and closer to a climax that is both surprising and inevitable. With each new strand, events that seemed unimportant in one narrative take on new significance. Each character's story adds to the others, creating a bigger picture that is far more satisfying than any one story would have been on its own.

Each of the characters are well-developed in their own right. Teen readers will likely sympathize most with Listen, who must overcome the unspoken rules of popularity and friendships, and Cath, who is young enough to still be uncertain of her place in the world. They may have more trouble relating to Marbie and Cath, who are dealing with issues of settling down and marital satisfaction, subjects which rarely affect teens. However, this also means the book will appeal to adults as well as children, and perhaps give teens a glimpse into the lives of their parents and teachers.

Despite the title and the spell book Listen finds, the spells which provide some framework for the story, THE SPELL BOOK OF LISTEN TAYLOR is mainly a realistic novel, with a light shading of magic. Readers expecting sorcery and special powers may be disappointed. But the hints of magic, in many ways, are far more enjoyable than if this book were outright supernatural or fantasy. They suggest that the extraordinary is possible in everyday life, even if you're not a witch or a wizard.

If you're looking for a quiet, thoughtful, but still suspenseful read, with a magic anyone can believe in, run out and grab THE SPELL BOOK OF LISTEN TAYLOR. It is one of the most unique books I've read this year, and one I never wanted to put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved the books eccentric randomness, especially how it really was all subtlely intertwined. All the characters were easy to become attached to and it was such an addicting novel. I enjoyed every last page until the end!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't like this book at all! It was just so disappointing...There was all this completely random stuff and you're left thinking ,What?! The story was also really choppy and not all that interesting. Overall the book just felt like a waste of time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't enjoy this book, I thought it was boring and slow. I really love her other books, but this dissapointed me a lot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just read this book, and I could not take it down! Even though it has over 400 pages, I finished it in two days. Have fun!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very good