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The Invisible Trilogy

from School Library Journal

Fifth-grader Billie Stoner longs for more freedom. Her days and nights are carefully monitored by her mother, and shared with her younger sister since New York City is a place of "countless dangers." While on a family excursion to Central Park, Billie discovers a mysterious cosmetics bag that she quietly secrets away. At school the next day, she samples one of the powders in it and becomes invisible. Her ability to move through her school and throughout the city unseen proves to be both humorous and challenging. Not only must she outsmart her teacher, but also her mother, who is the school librarian. With the help of her friend Hubert, Billie travels uptown to the home of an eccentric teenage scientist, Jody, the owner of the cosmetics bag and the only one who can help Billie regain visibility. The story has a predictable plot, but children will find it intriguing. The girl learns some lessons in her travels, and comes to appreciate and miss her family. Some characterization is rather shallow. Still, the story keeps a good, fresh pace, and the ending is neatly tied up with a bowthe class bully's attempts at plagiarism are thwarted, Billie becomes visible, and she finally gains some freedom from her mother. Her first-person narrative gives the book a chatty, comfortable tone. Children will readily identify with Billie's thoughts, motives, actions, and language.

In the Booklist interview, Anne Fine speaks about how children today can never get away from adults, "there's no longer that sense of safety and freedom." Here, first-novelist Jocelyn dramatizes that dependence in a funny story about a fifth-grader in Manhattan who can get no peace from her overprotective single mother ("Bathrooms were the only place where a kid can be alone"). When Billie finds a magic makeup kit that makes her invisible, she can, for the first time in her life, walk alone on the street and ride the subway all by herself. She feels like an alien. Kids will enjoy the fantasy as Billie evades her hovering mother, tricks her teachers and the classroom bully, and travels across town to a teenage inventor, who makes her visible again. Her adventure is also a celebration of New York City, with all the riches of its crowded streets. Readers will be touched by the ending, when Billie and her mother recognize what was sometimes "invisible": how much they love each other and how Billie must learn to be on her own, even in a dangerous world.