Magic Misfits

By Neil Patrick Harris

Illustrated by Lissy Marlin

Book Trailer

Readers Theater

Author Interview

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Actor Neil Patrick Harris Assumes New Role of Children’s Author:

Illustrator Information:

Lissy Marlin’s website:

Related Activities & Resources:



Learn some magic tricks:

List of famous magicians:

Magic lessons videos:


Find a magic trick or performance you like in Magic Misfits. Write it as a script for a play and learn the magic tricks before acting it out with your classmates.

Create your very own unique magical performance and put on a magic show.

In a group, create your own secret club and decide what your theme would be.  Design your own secret club house. Draw it out.

Puzzles and Codes:

6 Secret Codes for Kids:

MakerSpace Activities:

Create a flyer for your very own magic show using art materials or digital photo software.

Create your own Magic Set for a variety of tricks:

Make a Magician’s Hat and Wand set:  (digital or art)

4 DIY Amazing | Secret box – Gift box | Easy DIY Paper crafts ideas (3:57):

Discussion Questions:

The introduction of this book says that “magic can mean different things to different people.” What does magic mean to you?

When running from his uncle, Carter sees a yellow train car and takes it as a sign that he should reach for it because it is the color of a bird he once saw in a pet store. Have you ever had a situation in your life where you made a decision based on something you saw as a sign? How did it turn out? Would you do it again?

Carter says that he loves to “lose himself in books about ideas like hope and strength and wonder.” What kinds of books do you like to lose yourself in? Why do you select these kinds of books?

When Uncle Sly steals Ms. Zalewski’s diamond necklace, Carter decides to steal it back for her. Do you think he made the right choice? Why or why not? Would you have made the same choice? In a few sentences, explain your decision.

Carter believes that meeting Mr. Dante Vernon changed his life forever. Would you agree? Have you ever met someone who changed your life? Describe that situation in a few sentences.

Mr. Dante Vernon advises Carter to trust his instincts when it comes to carnival. What advice would you give Carter?

Carter has a strict code of ethics that he will never steal from people, regardless of his circumstances. After running away and meeting Bosso, he is briefly tempted to break his code and join the team of con artists. Do you think Carter made the right choice to turn them down? Why or why not? What would you have done? In a few sentences, explain your decision.

Mr. Vernon says that “families come in all different shapes and sizes”. What does your family look like?

Theo states that “there is a unique connection between each of us and our possessions” while stopping the Pock-Pickets from stealing from the crowd. Do you believe this is true? Are there any objects you feel a particular bond to? What are they? Why did you select these particular objects?

Carter feels like he has met kindred spirits when he meets Mr. Vernon, Leila, and Theo. Who have you met in your life that you would describe as a kindred spirit? Why?

Ridley tells the group, “I never feel sorry for myself. Whenever I’m angry or frustrated or lonely, I put the energy into something constructive,like practicing magical transformations.” How do you deal with feelings like anger, frustration and loneliness?

Ridley becomes suspicious of Carter when their prized possessions go missing and won’t believe Carter when he says he isn’t responsible. Has there ever been a situation when you told the truth but someone wouldn’t believe you? How did you resolve the problem?

Leila’s family owns a parrot, and Theo’s family owns doves. What unusual pets have you seen? What did their habitats look like? Who took care of them? Describe how you met these pets.

Chapter 13 has been marked through due to a superstition that “13” is an unlucky number. What are your favorite superstitions? Does your culture have different superstitions from other cultures?

Carter, Leile, Theo, Ridley, Ozzy, and Izzy decide to stop Bosso and his gang from stealing the diamond. What do you think their plan will be? How would you stop Bosso?

Mr. Vernon reveals that he knows Bosso personally when he calls him Bobby. How do you think they know each other?

Now that Carter and his friends have stopped Bosso and his gang, what do you think Carter’s next step in life will be?

Carter and his friends decide to name their secret club the “Magic Misfits.” If you had a secret club what would you name it? What activities would you do as a group? How would you recruit members?

Carter believes the name “Magic Misfits” makes it feel “almost as if the fact that he’d never fit in was what made him belong right here.” Describe what you feel makes you belong to a group.

Book Talk Teasers:

Show the book trailer for Magic Misfits. After viewing, ask for predictions for what will happen in the story.

Create a series of secret codes for kids to figure out. Once they have solved the codes, encourage them to read the book to figure out more.

Read Alikes:


Lowry, Lois. The Willoughbys. In this tongue-in-cheek take on classic themes in children’s literature, the four Willoughby children set about to become “deserving orphans” after their neglectful parents embark on a treacherous around-the-world adventure, leaving them in the care of an odious nanny. (NoveList Plus)

Peck, Richard. Here lies the librarian. Fourteen-year-old Eleanor “Peewee” McGrath, a tomboy and automobile enthusiast, discovers new possibilities for her future after the 1914 arrival in her small Indiana town of four young librarians. (NoveList Plus)

Selfors, Suzanne. Fortune’s magic farm. Rescued from a rainy, boggy town where she works in a dismal factory, ten-year-old orphan Isabelle learns that she is the last surviving member of a family that tends the world’s only remaining magic-producing farm. (NoveList Plus)


Preece, Philip. Carnival of horrors. When Ben tries to hide from bullies at a carnival, he is drawn into a sideshow that promises to make his dreams of popularity and good grades come true, if only he signs a contract agreeing to give up a few minutes of his time. (NoveList Plus)

Quimby, Laura. The carnival of lost souls: a Handcuff kid novel. Orphaned Jack Carr finally finds what feels like a real home in the foster care of Professor Hawthorne, who shares his love of magic and admiration of Houdini, but Hawthorne is more interested in the occult and how Jack can save his soul. (NoveList Plus)

Reeve, Philip. Carnival in a fix. Emily must save her outer space amusement park home from being shut down by the funfair inspector. (NoveList Plus)


Bosch, Pseudonymous. The name of this book is secret. This book begins with a warning: “Do not read beyond this page!” Though the brain teasers and coded messages in this supernatural mystery will make you curious about what happens next, beware! As you read, you (like Max-Ernst and Cass, the book’s eccentric 11-year-old heroes) might learn secrets that put you in mortal danger at the hands of a covert, immortality-obsessed cult. (NoveList Plus)

Egan, Kate. The vanishing coin. Mike reluctantly bonds with good-girl neighbor Nora while learning fun skills at The White Rabbit magic shop, the owner of which believes Mike could become a great magician. (NoveList Plus)

Evans, Lissa. Horten’s miraculous mechanisms: magic, mystery, and a very strange adventure. Moving away from everything familiar to live in a new house, 10-year-old S. Horten reluctantly befriends the annoying triplets next door and is swept up in a magical quest to find his great-uncle Tony, a famous magician who disappeared along with his fantastical workshop. (NoveList Plus)

Lopez, Diana. Nothing up my sleeve. When best friends Dominic, Loop, and Z stumble upon the new magic shop in town, they know just how they will spend their summer vacation–mastering cool tricks so they can gain further access into the secret world of magic. (NoveList Plus)


Harris, Neil Patrick and Alec Azam . The Magic Misfits.  Little Brown and Company, 2017.


The Magic Misfits.

Harris, Neil Patrick (author).

Sept. 2017. 224p. Little, Brown, hardcover, $16.99 (9780316391825); Little, Brown, e- book, $9.99 (9780316355582). Grades 3-5.

REVIEW. First published July, 2017 (Booklist).

Actor Harris brings his passion for stage magic to his delightful middle-grade debut. Carter has lived a hardscrabble life with his uncle, an unkind man who teaches him to use slight- of-hand tricks to steal. An unwilling accomplice to these thefts, Carter runs away to Mineral Wells, where he meets jovial Mr. Vernon and five kids with a talent for magic. After spending an evening at B. B. Bosso’s Carnival, the six “Magic Misfits” realize that Bosso is planning a major theft, and Carter devises a plan to bring Bosso’s criminal operation down. Magic is a key ingredient to this book’s success, both as an art form and component of belonging. Carter sees his jaded attitude transformed through his friendship with the Magic Misfits, a wonderfully diverse group of talented oddballs. Harris employs a conversational narrator that periodically breaks from the story to address the reader, often instructing them in how to perform a magic trick. The approachable length and lively, funny writing will ensure this book, the first in a series, performs its own vanishing act from shelves. — Julia Smith

Used with the permission of Booklist

School Library Journal (July 1, 2017)

Gr 4-6-Carter was quite young when he lost his parents and was taken in by his uncle of sorts, Sly Mike. Sly Mike doesn’t hold down a real job; he cons people out of their money and belongings through sleight of hand and trickery. Carter has never had friends, gone to school, or felt safe. The only upside to his unusual lifestyle is his mastery of magic tricks he’s learned from Sly Mike-but he refuses to use them to hurt or rob others. When Sly Mike steals a precious diamond necklace from kind Ms. Zalewski, Carter decides that his uncle has gone too far. The boy steals the necklace back, returns it to the rightful owner, and runs away. Carter jumps on a railcar, ending up in a small New England town where he is captured by a carnival owner, B.B. Bosso, and pressured to join his sticky-fingered carnival sidekicks. Carter quickly understands that the glitter of their magic conceals their greed and trickery. He escapes and at last meets his true friends-Leila, Theo, Ridley, Olly, and Izzy. Each friend possesses skills in different areas of magic. The friends bond over a hatred of the evil carnies and after some missteps manage to outsmart B.B. Bosso. The themes of friendship, ethical choices, and bravery are woven seamlessly throughout. Readers will sympathize with Carter and cheer when he finally finds his place. The plot is fast-paced, and characters are multifaceted. Fun magic tricks are peppered throughout. VERDICT A rollicking ride of a magical tale that’s wholesomely suspenseful, values friendship, and applauds courage. A fine addition to medium and large collections.-Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess -Elementary School, Gastonia, NC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.  

Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal ©2017