Ace opens up a peanut butter jar without reading the warning label on the top... and unleashes a genie! Ridge is more than happy to grant wishes, but warns Ace that every wish requires some sort of sacrifice. The year's supply of peanut butter sandwiches comes at the cost of Ace wearing a smudge of peanut butter on his cheek for a year... and he gets all of the sandwiches at once! Even though they are individually bagged and will magically stay fresha a bit longer, this is not exactly what Ace meant. Ridge tells Ace that he must accept a quest or all of the cats and dogs in the world will turn into zombies. His quest is to find Thackary Anderthon and stop him from finding the Undiscovered Genie, who grants wishes that have no consequences. He can make wishes related to this quest to help him, but the price is usually high. (He does say no to replacing his legs with Pogo sticks-- permanently!) His quest becomes even more complicated when he meets fellow Wishmaker Tina and her genie Vale, and Tina's quest is to save a former Wishmaker... who happens to be Thackary Anderthone. When the quartet meet Thackery's son, Jathon, whose quest is also at cross purposes to the others, the trio start to wonder exactly how they can save the universe. They must travel all over on bizarre quests in order to stave off either the zombie pets, the constant raining of pianos, or the other terrible fates that could befall the world if they are not successful in figuring out what the universe requires of them.
This was very fast paced and just goofy enough to be a solid hit with middle grade readers. As an adult, I appreciated that our Wishmakers had to confront a lot of difficult choices about what they were willing to pay in order to get their wishes. The characters were all sympathetic and likable, the world building very solid, and the goofiness just right. Lots of funny details, like Ace having to eat cotton candy that would leave his tongue permanently green, sneezing large grapes, and Thackery talking like a pirate (which must be a consequence of a wish) come to a brilliant culmination where Ace recounts the effects that all of his consequence have on him (page 167 of E ARC) in a tour de force combination of tween grossness and humor. In fact, I am nominating that paragraph for the single best piece of writing since Jon Scieszka's Stuckey Pecan Log incident in Knucklehead.