Shadow Sorcery Minister Beelzebub Preposter is in quite a pickle. His Aunt Tyrannia Vampirella is in the same pickle jar with him.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Preposter’s gotten behind on his evilness payments. Despite his best efforts, he has only managed to perform half his annual obligation of making ten species extinct, polluting five rivers, causing 10,000 trees to die, bringing forth a new plague, and changing the climate disastrously.
Much like Scrooge’s Christmas Eve visit from Jacob Marley’s ghost, Preposter, too, has a spectral New Year’s Eve visitor, but of a much different kind. At 5 p.m., Maledictus Maggot arrives, sent by the Minister of Pitch Darkness to tell him that he will be foreclosed upon at the stroke of midnight.
The two villains join forces to try to turn the world on its end before midnight by brewing the incredibly powerful Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion. If they succeed, the potion will let them do enough damage in one or two fell swoops that their souls will be saved from collection. Watching their antagonistic “collaboration” becomes half the fun.
Only two creatures stand between them and diabolical success: a small white cat named Mauricio di Mauro—who dreams of being an operatic tenor, in honor of his supposed Minnesinger heritage—and Jacob Scribble, a tattered old raven with a different wife in every nest.
The tension gradually ratchets up as midnight approaches. Along the way, the reader is treated to scads of hilarious rhyming poetry à la Jabberwocky, and page after page of virtuosic linguistic play. A bravura translation, this book for middle grade readers is an old-fashioned romp— a riot of puns and jokes galore, including one of my favorite lines ever in children’s literature, given that I’m an opera singer, “Oh, well, what does a singer need with brains?”
Do our two villains manage to create enough mischief and mayhem to survive, or do our two tiny heroes save the day…or rather night? You’ll have to crack open The Night of Wishes… to find out how things end.
The Night of Wishes, or The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion
By Michael Ende
Translated from the German by Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian
Illustrated by Regina Kehn
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992; reissued by the New York Review Children’s Collection, 2017
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 40 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French and Italian into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Upcoming translations for her are Little Josephine (Humanoids, 2020) and Who Killed Kenny? (NBM, 2019).