Neil Patrick Harris' 'Magic Misfits' books are for kids who are 'hungry for being treated like they're smart'

Sabrina Rojas Weiss

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The children of the people who think of Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, M.D., may actually know him best as an author of fantastic middle-grade books. That's totally by design. Ever since starring as the boy genius on the TV series, Harris decided he didn't want to be just one thing. With the third book in his Magic Misfits series out this fall, he also seems to be reaching out to kids who know they too contain multitudes.

The Magic Misfits is about a group of young magicians who each have their own unique talents and very different backgrounds. But they are bound together by friendship and their determination to fight back some nefarious villains threatening their small New England town of Mineral Wells.

The third in the four-book series, aptly titled The Minor Third, is an adventurous story that's also about balancing friendships and changing identities. It follows Theo Stein-Meyer, a violinist who can make things levitate with his bow. He develops his first crush, causing trouble within the group just as they have to face down a creepy ventriloquist who's probably up to no good.

"I wanted it to be a little bit creepy," Harris told Build Series host Ricky Camilleri of this new plot, which involves the ventriloquist's dummy turning up all over town. Though he admitted to trying his hand (or mouth?) at ventriloquism as a kid growing up in New Mexico, he knows that there is something just inherently unsettling about those voice-throwing illusionists.

In addition to a straightforward narrative story, The Magic Misfits books also contain an interactive element. There are secret codes hidden throughout each novel, giving clues about the mysteries of the books.

The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third by Neil Patrick Harris is a Build Book Club Pick. (Photo: Amazon)
The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third by Neil Patrick Harris is a Build Book Club Pick. (Photo: Amazon)

Shop it: The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third, $11.48,

"As I love watching Netflix shows and watching movies in cinemas, I think there's something almost more exciting about immersive theater, immersive circuses, or finding out that there's different levels to things," Harris said. "Often the stuff that kids are asked to watch or read ends up being kind of simplified for them."

As the father of two 8-year-olds, Harris knows that kids can handle more than many adults give them credit for.

"I feel like they're hungry for being treated like they're smart and have subtlety and have nuance," he said. "Grimm's fairy tales were dark and a little bit acerbic because kids could handle it. I didn't want to write something that didn't have multiple layers."

Harris also has another mission with his novels: to spread his love of magic to a new generation. As a form of entertainment, he said magic often fluctuates between being "your awkward sweaty uncle doing bad magic at Thanksgiving" to the stuff of much-watched TV events, like in the heyday of David Blaine's specials.

"I certainly want to keep [magic] in the zeitgeist and make sure it's cool," he said. "I think it needs to be honored and respected."

Shop it: The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third, $11.48,

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