The Vanishing Trick

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Pub Date 1 Jun 2020 | Archive Date 5 Jun 2020
Simon and Schuster UK Children's, Simon & Schuster Children's UK

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'A thrilling, original, evocative and eerie tale - I adored it!’ Michelle Harrison, author of A Pinch of Magic
'A thrilling page-turner. Madame Pinchbeck is a gloriously Dickensian villain’  Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song
'Ghosts, gadgets, likeable villains and unlikely heroes: The Vanishing Trick is a dark and dazzling adventure’ Emma Carroll, author of Letters from the Lighthouse
'A completely enthralling tale, oozing with atmosphere and originality’ Catherine Doyle, author of The Storm Keeper's Island
'Jenni Spangler is the next big voice in children’s magical history novels’ Lucy Powrie, author of The Paper & Hearts Society 
'Deliciously dark and atmospheric … I couldn’t get enough' Nizrana Farook, author of The Girl Who Stole An Elephant  
'A spectacular heart-stopping adventure in a dark and dangerous Victorian world' Tamsin Winter, author of Jemima Small Versus the Universe 

'An eventful gothic adventure full of secrets and surprises' Sunday Times Book of The Week?

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play…
Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones... for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too - if you know where to look.
Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will.
When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…


A historical adventure with a magical twist from an outstanding debut talent. Perfect for fans of Michelle Harrison, Sophie Anderson and Emma Carroll.

'A thrilling, original, evocative and eerie tale - I adored it!’ Michelle Harrison, author of A Pinch of Magic
'A thrilling page-turner. Madame Pinchbeck is a gloriously Dickensian villain’  ...

Advance Praise

‘A thrilling, original, evocative and eerie tale - I adored it!’ Michelle Harrison, author of A Pinch of Magic

'A thrilling page-turner. Madame Pinchbeck is a gloriously Dickensian villain.' Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song

‘A thrilling, original, evocative and eerie tale - I adored it!’ Michelle Harrison, author of A Pinch of Magic

'A thrilling page-turner. Madame Pinchbeck is a gloriously Dickensian villain.' Abi...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781471190377
PRICE £6.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 39 members

Featured Reviews

Alone, afraid and forced to steal to survive, Leander finds himself taking refuge with Madame Pinchbeck, who offers him work. Despite forceful warnings from a mysterious girl, the promise of contact with his recently dead mother by this new employer, a medium, eclipses his doubts, and he is sucked into a situation more eerie and incredible than he could ever have imagined.
This is a thrilling, page-turning adventure, with some genuine magic grounded in a credible historical setting, pervaded by a sense of menace as Leander and his new friends race against time to resolve their desperate plight. There is a darker tone to this story than other children's novels on a magical theme, akin to Grimm's collection of fairy stories than the more tongue in cheek modern versions, with engaging characters whose true personalities are revealed little by little as each one's story emerges.
I was swept along with the emotion and excitement of the plot, and appreciated its satisfying structure which, unlike many modern offerings for children, actually feels complete in itself.
I will definitely try to obtain a copy of this for our school library, and will be recommending it to readers in year 5 and 6 who have enjoyed the likes of Cogheart, Harry Potter and Nevermoor, as well as those who are fans of Katherine Rundell or Neil Gaiman. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the world of The Vanishing Place over a weekend.

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Seances aren't real. But if you have several stolen children at your beck and call you can make them seem real. Madame Pinchbeck may not see dead people but she does have one particular power. She can trap children's souls in an object and keep them there like a genie in a lamp.
We follow her 3 current captives as they realise that their time is running out and they need to break the spell before it's too late.
The protagonists feel believable and show great growth and friendship. The villains are suitably creepy and nefarious. A twisty slightly dark victorian-era fairytale that will captivate many young readers.

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The Vanishing Trick is a dark, twisted fairytale which kept me on the edge of my seat. This creepy MG novel will be a huge hit. Here are three things are really loved about it:

1. The relationship between Leander, Charlotte and Felix was lovely. This is a story about found family, the importance of bonds and intimacy, and learning to love and trust after you've been abandoned and mistreated.

2. The atmosphere was also brilliant - The Vanishing Trick was so dark and creepy, with ghosts, magic and danger at every turn. The magical elements were woven into the story well, with clear limitations and plenty of fun details that led to interesting plot points.

3. Pinchbeck was a superb villain! She was nasty, twisted and unpredictable, a perfect antagonist for such a creepy children's story. Throughout The Vanishing Trick, she was able to manipulate the protagonists and trick them into thinking that she cared - leaving the reader screaming at the children not to trust her!

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It's one of the darkest, creepiest middle grade books I've read!

Madame Pinchbeck is a truly horrifying villain, and I loved her mixture of showmanship, manipulation and control. It was done so cleverly that it would be quite believable (and almost as horrible) even without the magic. One element I particularly liked was her relationship with Felix, one of the trapped children who had been with her the longest. The expression of Stockholm Syndrome was really believable and powerful and made his character particularly interesting in its complexity. Similarly, the relationship between Leander and Charlotte was complex and fascinating, with their different upbringings reflected in their attitudes to stealing, for one thing.

The fairytale elements were woven in really skillfully, with the background slowly being revealed in a way that kept me enthralled, as the novel built up to a dramatic and exciting climax.

I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anybody interested in dark fairytale stories. Exciting, scary, fantastic.

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I loved this middle grade book set in the victorian period . Delighted. Highly recommend . Another point , this is not written in first person which is a huge positive aspect of this book.

*I received an e-ARC from the publisher vian netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sometimes you pick up a story and you know from the very first line that it's special. This is one of those stories. Three children: Leander, Felix and Charlotte, are held captive by the cruel Madame Pinchbeck, a charlatan medium who preys on the bereaved in her fake seances. By trapping the children's souls in objects dear to them, Pinchbeck is able to summon or banish them at will, creating a ghostly illusion to convince even the most sceptical of critics. But as Pinchbeck's ambitions and greed grow, so does the risk of the captive children vanishing for good. Can they work out a way to free themselves from this dark magic?

Everything about this story - the 1870s setting, the seances, the tarot card links and chapter titles and most of all the beautiful writing - demanded to be read. I’ve neglected almost everything over the past couple of days to sit and devour it (I now have a mountain of wrapping up to do)! When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it. I loved the concept of the enchanted objects, and how the magic in the story is ‘contained’ in this way, which for me always makes magical stories more believable.

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A twisted, gothic tale with a thoroughly evil villain. I liked the creepiness and the use of dark magic. Just right for middle grade age!

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Wow. What can I say other than I absolutely loved this book!

I really enjoyed the setting. I'm liking historical fiction more and more. I think it can be particularly hard to capture the time period when writing for children, as they may have little understanding of this time, but I felt there was enough historical detail for them to understand.

Then there was the premise of the story set around the dark, sinister world of the seance and being able to see and talk to spirits of past loved ones. This was utterly believable. The introduction of the early camera was portrayed well and the whole mysteriousness of the 'other world' had a real sense of foreboding, even though we know, as readers, it was all done through magic. Yet, we're not actually sure how the magic works! Love that element.

This story follow Leander, an orphan and street child who just about scrapes through life stealing morsels of food and sleeping wherever he can, as he gets duped into believing Augustina Pinchbeck when she says she will give him a job and food in exchange for him working for her.

I thought the character of Leander was totally believable. Despite where he has ended up in life, he has good morals. He knows right from wrong (even though he steals) and he believes that there is good in everyone. Just before he agrees to work for Pinchbeck, we get a mysterious glimpse of Charlotte, who we later find out also works for Pinchbeck, as she tries to stop him making the wrong choice. That section of the book in itself was a mystery as we feel ourselves asking the same questions as Leander.

Leander soon discovers that all is not as it seems. He learns to trust Charlotte and Felix (the third child) as together they try to stop Pinchbeck fooling the rich as she tries desperately to become a famous medium.

Pinchbeck reminded me of the child catcher. The author really worked her magic in making us, as well as Leander, believe that she is just looking out for him. Yet soon, we see her other side. A side that encompasses magic, stories, evil, darkness, greed and trickery. The more I read the book, the more I hated her but I just couldn't quite work out why things were happening. I just had to keep reading!

The book was full of suspense and a sense of fear for the children. Would they die? Would they survive? Would they be locked away forever? A fantastically written story that takes the reader on a heart stopping journey. There were times when I found myself reading quicker and quicker. I could feel my heart thumping as I was totally sucked in to the plights of the children.

For me, this book stands out as one of a kind. The setting, the characters and the plot all were different to anything I've read at middle grade before.

I'd highly recommend this book to children of about 9 upwards. It may be a little too tense for lower key stage 2. It easily fits within the Victorians topic and further research could be done in class to enhance the children's understanding of the time period. There would be so much to look into: clothes, development of the camera, travel, beliefs etc.

This has to be the easiest 5 stars I've ever given.

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Leander has to survive on his wits. And also a bit of stealing if he is not to go hungry. But swiping a pie means a chase by the baker resulting in an unexpected meeting with a well-dressed lady near her carriage. Although he first rejects her offer, returning to what he calls home, he sees hi precarious situation will not last and so returns to do a deal with Madame Pinchbeck. Too late, a girl appears as if from nowhere and tells Leander he has made a grave mistake. Life from now keeps revealing new surprises and shocks as it slowly dawns on Leander that he and other children are in danger. How can he reverse his situation?
Although Madame Pinchbeck is mistress of secrets and deception, some of what she does is pure magic. The group travel the country with Madame Pinchbeck as a medium summoning the spirits of the departed, and her captive children acting the parts. The children know that their lives depend on their captive and this prevents them escaping until they can work out a plan. But they are three children up against a master of deceipt.
The story offers adventure, magic, a sense of belonging and what it means to have friends and family to children who had not experienced that for quite some time. It starts off questioning and becomes compulsory in a frantic race to a thrilling climax.

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✅ An UKS2 historical thriller
✅ With supernatural elements
✅ That has a split narrative between three great characters
✅ And features a downright dastardly villain.
✅ A white-knuckle ride that grabs you and won't let go.

For me this was also filled with lots of intertextual references which kept sparking different thoughts and ideas.

This sound like your kind of thing? Then go read!

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Spooky middle-grade adventures are the easiest books to get lost in and I’ve had the best time today within the pages of this one!

Orphan boy Leander is living in the library of Litchfield House under the cruel eye of housekeeper Mrs Smart, when medium and fortune teller Augustina Pinchbeck offers him a position aboard her travelling carriage. It seems like a great proposition with a warm dry bed, food, a little allowance for himself and the promise of being able to speak to his dead mother again. That is until he meets her other young wards -clever, feisty Charlotte and dreamer violinist Felix- who warn him of the true price of coming under Pinchbeck’s care. As dark secrets come to light, a race against time kicks in that could see one or more of the children vanish forever.

In many ways, Leander is very much the archetypal Dickensian street child. He’s mistrustful of everyone and is simply desperate to be a part of a family again. However, he has quite a sharp tongue and doesn’t seem to shy away from the adults who attempt to intimidate him.

He could potentially come across as a cocky, reckless kid but he has a lovely vulnerability to him that is shown, when he learns about the dark magic surrounding the existence and the purpose of Cabinets. These magical containers are specially bewitched items that Pinchbeck uses to keep pieces of her wards’ souls in, thereby forming a connection between child and container. When the container is closed, only Pinchbeck has the power to release the child. She uses this magic to add theatre to her seances and of course, to physically control the unfortunate children she has kidnapped.

Felix’s story is truly tearjerking and the more that unravels, the more enraged with Pinchbeck I became on his behalf. He joined Pinchbeck’s carriage as a violinist eight years before in exchange for the ability to travel and search for his missing brother. Even when Pinchbeck’s true nature is fully on show, his loyalties are still divided which shows so much character strength. It’s only when the awful sickening truth of her lies come out that these loyalties are dropped and he can finally be free.

At the beginning of the story, we learn from Charlotte that the magic of the Cabinets affects Pinchbeck too and that she can only feasibly contain a few souls without it damaging her. The extent and manifestation of this damage only comes to light towards the end and the story takes on a Gothic fairytale twist. As the mask slips, the children start to see the face of the real monster underneath and it’s nothing like the beautiful clairvoyant they know.

I really love the message that the worst monsters don’t always have such scary faces -at least not at first. It’s an important truth that young readers will take away from this book. Although the characters are aged between 10 and 13, parts of the plot are pretty twisted and there are some frightening scenes especially in the latter pages. Be mindful of this before gifting it to an unsuspecting 10-year-old!

With elements of Dorian Grey, Oliver Twist and Stardust, The Vanishing Trick is a very original, darkly-magical adventure that champions friendship, fighting for justice and the overthrow of pure evil.

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This was creepy in the best possible way. The lore of magic and folktales was so intricately weaved, our villain, Pinchbeck, complex and dangerous and horrible, and our heroes clever, determined and resourceful. Set in Victorian England, THE VANISHING TRICK immediately captured the essence of the time period–and I think it was this skilful world building that helped make the magic seem real.

I thought the whole concept of using Spiritualism (a VERY trendy religious movement at the time) as a cover for Pinchbeck’s real-life magic was HIGHLY original. The use of herbs, tarots and other witch-y elements added to the eerie-ness of the whole book, and made Pinchbeck a formidable villain.

Our heroes, Leander, Charlotte and Felix each had POV sections throughout the book, and I really enjoyed getting to know all their inner thoughts as Pinchbeck’s scheme’s got progressively more danger-filled. I thought the development of their friendship was done brilliantly, and I have a serious soft spot for Charlotte–she initially lashed out because she was so furious with her lot in life, but this anger was only a mechanism to protect herself.

The plot was fast moving and unpredictable, and the lurking sense of danger throughout the story made ME terrified about the fate of our heroes–there was a constant feeling that anything could happen. This debut is an OUTSTANDING historical fantasy, and I can’t wait to read what Jenni writes next.

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Magic and mystery abound in this delicious and exciting tale of deception and hope set in the Victorian era, perfect as a family read-aloud or for upper primary school aged children to enjoy.

Madame Pinchbeck, glamorous but evil, makes her money by persuading people she can communicate with the dead and summon up ghosts. Her seances are quite the theatrical spectacle, made all the more convincing by the orphan children she has kidnapped and trained, and over whom she has mysterious control.

But the children have had enough and want to escape, and in doing so expose Madame Pinchbeck for the fraud she is. Will they have the strength? Will they be able to break the magic? Will they overcome their differences to work together as a team?

The Vanishing Trick by Jenni Spangler draws the reader in to a wonderfully imagined world, with a brilliant mix of beautiful descriptive detail balanced with great pace and a story arc full of momentum. There’s a character for every reader to love; I can already imagine lots of world book day costumes based on this lovely book which, with its intertwining of fairy tales, along with historical setting, gives lots of scope for extension activities.

A perfect mixture of thrills and triumph, ideal for fans of Abi Elphinstone or Peter Bunzl , this is a delightful tale reminding us it’s not necessarily blood that makes you family, its love.

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Without a doubt, this is one of the most spine-tingling, gripping middle-grade books that I have ever read, and it's one that I'd urge all fans of a good mysterious and eerie tale to read!

I knew that I'd enjoy The Vanishing Trick; it sounded right up my street. However, what I didn't expect was for it to be a no-hesitation 5* read that would stay with me for weeks afterwards. I really struggled to want to read anything else straight after reading this because it was THAT GOOD. It very much reminded me of the books I'd read when I was younger, set in Victorian-esque eras, full of magic and intrigue, and for this it really felt like home to be reading it! 

The writing is exquisite; it's atmospheric and realistic. The characters jump off the page and were really fun to get to know. A special mention has to be made to Madame Pinchbeck, who is such a dark character and wonderfully crafted. As a fellow book blogger suggested on Twitter, she's very much like Tangled's Mother Gothel and I couldn't agree more! 

I can't wait to get a finished copy so I can see the illustrations too; from what I'm seeing being released in the run up to publication, Chris Mould has done a stellar job bringing this cast of characters to life!

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I absolutely adored this book. The characters were given a huge amount of depth, it was atmospheric, creepy, exciting and it even made me shed a tear at the end because I was so involved with the plight of Leander, Felix and Charlotte. Will snap up this authors next book in a heartbeat and I can see this one being a staple at my shop.

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This is a fantastically creepy debut by Jenni Spangler! Perfect for fans of 'A Place Called Perfect' or 'A Pinch of Magic'

The story is set in Victorian England, where mediums, ghosts and tarot cards were the popular thing and new tricks with cameras and photography meant that people could 'see' spirits.

We first meet Leander running away with some food to feed himself as he is an orphan. He finds a hiding place in a black carriage with many strange things in jars. Said owner soon finds him. Madame Pinchbeck at first looks like a nice kind woman however there is a coldness about her, something underneath that is not right. She is a medium and makes Leander believe she can contact his mother, who passed away a few months ago, in exchange for her locket, all he has left of her.

Leander is desperate and alone so he agrees. Just as quick as the deal is done do two other children spring out from seemingly no where. Charlotte, short tempered and annoyed, and Felix, calm and kind, begin to explain to Leander what has really happened. He has been tricked, taken and bound to Madame Pinchbeck to be used in her seances and can be summoned or vanish into his locket, now a magical cabinet, as if he was a real ghost.

I love the relationships that forms between Leander, Charlotte, and Felix. They grow in the short time they know each other and really learn to trust in each other as they cant with Madame Pinchbeck. The three children are against the clock to try and break her spell on them before one of them vanishes for good.

The atmosphere is truly eerie, even though we learn of her parlor tricks used to make people believe there is always something sinister about madame Pinchbeck behind her showmanship that makes her the perfect villain.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Children's UK and Netgalley for an early eArc of the book.

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This was a thrilling book for upper Key Stage 2 children who enjoy a little ghoulish threat! Leander is an orphan, tricked into captivity by Madame Pinchbeck, a fraudulent medium who uses her trapped children to pretend to be ghosts. She can cast a spell to contain them in a 'cabinet' - for Leander it is his mother's locket - and make them apparently vanish into thin air. The idea of being trapped by a malevolent adult is genuinely scary, but still appropriate for readers aged 10+, especially if they have enjoyed Neil Gaiman type fantasy/ light horror. The book is exciting and well written, and Leander's friends are well described and appealing.

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I’m always drawn to those books which contain magic. The constant search for a sprinkle of magic to enlighten my world led me to be intrigued by The Vanishing Trick, and I was lucky enough to be granted early access. Right from the off, Leander captured my attention and my heart, a young orphan stealing to get by but fighting his conscience every step of the way—a character with heart, just fighting to stay alive in an “Oliver Twist” Victorian-style setting, a character the reader is immediately rooting for. His last hope for a few coins is a stranger, a traveller staying in a nearby inn who has taken a peculiar interest in his only possession—his mother’s locket.
But this stranger cannot be trusted, and soon Leander finds himself part of Madame Pinchbeck’s travelling crew, along with a talented violinist, Felix, who is searching for his missing brother, and a well-to-do young girl, Charlotte, clearly from a wealthy family. This band of misfits must earn the approval of their keeper by assisting in staging her elaborate séances, where she claims to be able to conjure the dead.
Madame Pinchbeck absolutely makes this book. A seemingly-kind woman who persuades children to part with precious possessions, and in turn, their souls, is the most sinister of villains. The strained relationship between the children, flung together through their sheer misfortune, changes and evolves throughout the story with more than a few twist, turns and shocks. And the relationship each of the children has with Madame Pinchbeck is so heart-wrenching and alarming as they seek a mother and a guardian, but wrestle with knowing how controlling and evil that guardian is. But is there even a way out for the children? Will Pinchbeck’s past misdeeds come back to haunt her? Or will her unfortunate wards be trapped under her spell forever?

My favourite book of the year so far, this enticing debut from Jenni Spangler kept me hooked from start to finish. I loved the fairy-tale link, the eerie historical setting, and most of all the well-written characters. Perfect for magic lovers, fans of Michelle Harrison or historical fiction. Sinister magic lurks on every page, and not everything is as it seems in this thrilling page-turner. I can’t wait to see what else Jenni has up her sleeve!

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