The Magic Misfits: The Second Story


By Neil Patrick Harris

Illustrated by Lissy Marlin

Illustrated by Kyle Hilton

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From award-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris comes the magical second book in the New York Times bestselling Magic Misfits series–with even more tricks up its sleeve.

Growing up in an orphanage, Leila was bullied for being different. She turned her hardship into skill by becoming an escape artist–a valuable trait when you belong to a group of magical best friends. But when a famous psychic comes to town, Leila and her pals can’t escape the big mystery heading their way. Whether chasing mad monkeys or banishing ghosts from haunted hotels, these six friends will do their best to keep their home of Mineral Wells safe–but can they protect themselves?

Join the Magic Misfits as they discover adventure, friendship, and more than a few hidden secrets in this delightful new series. Whether you’re a long-time expert at illusion or simply a new fan of stage magic, hold onto your top hat!

…have more questions? I thought you might. Here are some answers:

WHERE? A sleepy town in New England. Within the town is a magic shop, run by the friendly but mysterious Dante Vernon–the gang’s caped and top-hatted mentor.

WHO? Carter, who can make things vanish. Leila, who can escape from anything. Theo, who can make things levitate. Ridley, who can invent anything. And twins Olly and Izzy, who can make anyone laugh.

WHY? Because together, these six magical misfits will discover adventure, friendship, and the town’s long-hidden secrets.

(Psst. Hey, you! Yes, YOU! Congratulations on reading this far down. As a reward, I’ll let you in on a little secret… This book isn’t just a book. It’s a treasure trove of secrets and ciphers and codes and even tricks. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll discover more than just a story–you’ll learn how to make your own magic!)



Yes, you… the one with the awesome hair and this book in your hands!

Who else would I be talking to?

You’ve returned! How nice to see you again! It’s been too long. If I know you at all, I’ll bet you’re seeking an escape from the ordinary and looking for more adventure, more puzzles, more em-ay-gee-eye-see. Well, look no further. I have another story to tell you.… Have I ever!

I hope you remember everything we discussed in the last book. It will make it easier to hop back in.…

Need a refresher? No problem!

Let’s begin with our delightful cast. Do you recall the boy with fast fingers? The orphan, Carter Locke, was a wiz with card tricks and could make things vanish—and reappear too! Though truthfully, he didn’t believe in real magic until he hopped a train to the town of Mineral Wells, where wonders appeared around every corner—from the buzzing circus tents of the fairgrounds to the magnificent auditorium way up in the hills at the Grand Oak Resort.

His friend Leila Vernon was the young and bright-eyed escape artist extraordinaire, who wrangled out of handcuffs and straitjackets as easily as if she’d played with them as toys in her cradle. Surely it had nothing to do with her lucky lockpicks, given to her by her fathers, whom she lived with above a certain magic shop on Main Street.

Let us not forget Theo Stein-Meyer, the multitalented violin prodigy who could levitate objects using his violin bow. Yes, music can be soothing for the soul, and for the heart, especially when it comes with magic. Theo rarely showed his regally thoughtful face around Mineral Wells unless he was dressed in one of his favorite and famous tuxedos.

There was also our little spitfire, Ridley Larsen, whose mad-scientist red hair made her look just as fierce as she acted. She could transform one object into another and then back again all before you could say “Abracadabra!” Ridley kept a notebook hidden in a compartment in the arm of her wheelchair so she could work out puzzles and invent secret codes to share with her friends. If you’re especially kind, maybe one day she’ll share them with you too. (Or maybe she already has.)

And last (but not least!) were the hilarious Izzy and Olly, the comedic Golden twins, who performed at the Grand Oak Resort. Those two were quite the act, both literally and figuratively. If you wanted laughs, those were the twins you needed.

In our previous tale, not long ago—or was it forever ago? I can’t remember—Carter, Leila, Theo, Ridley, Olly, and Izzy used their stage magic skills to stop a rash of petty robberies and ultimately prevented the theft of the world’s largest diamond. Working together, these six kids bonded while battling the barbaric B. B. Bosso, and thus formed a very special magic club called the Magic Misfits.

Is it all coming back now?


Now, for another reminder…


Leila Vernon did not always live in Mineral Wells. In fact, her name had not always been Leila Vernon. When she stayed at Mother Margaret’s Home for Children, Leila’s last name had been Doe.

Doe was not a name that she’d been given by family—Doe was Leila’s name because no one knew who her family was. When Mother Margaret first found Leila, a notecard in the bassinet stated only her first name and birth date. Leila never let this get the better of her. In fact, she tried harder than the other girls to keep a positive attitude, even when they treated her as if she were as worthless as a wooden nickel.

That was why, one afternoon, when several girls from Mother Margaret’s Home were dragging Leila Doe down the hallway toward Mother Margaret’s office, Leila let out a loud and boisterous laugh. “Ha-ha-ha!” she shouted as they pinched her arms. “That tickles!”

Leila was not actually tickled by what the mean girls were doing to her, but she figured that maybe an adult would hear her loud cries and intervene. She didn’t need to be psychic to know what the girls were up to, as they locked her in the darkest closet in the whole orphanage at least once a week. All because the tallest of the bunch had decided at some point that she didn’t like Leila always smiling and being cheery.

The tall girl wished for Leila to be as miserable as she was. And so she and her friends went out of their way to torment Leila every chance they got. Leila fought with every breath to not show them how much they were hurting her, especially on this particular afternoon, when a group of real-live magicians from the town of Mineral Wells was going to perform for all the children. Leila had been looking forward to the show for weeks.

“Come on, guys!” Leila said with a forced smile. “Let’s all go down to the recreation room. Everyone is probably waiting for us. There might even be cookies!”

The only response she got was a twisted echo of her last statement. “There might even be cookies,” the tall girl repeated snidely. The others cackled cruelly.

As the gang dragged Leila toward Mother Margaret’s office, she dug her heels into the linoleum. But together, the girls were too strong. The soles of her shoes left black streaks across the gray tile floor. The tallest girl flung the office door open, and the others yanked Leila through the room toward the familiar closet door. They threw her into the closet and slammed the door shut, drowning Leila’s vision in darkness. Leila heard the door lock from the other side.

“Okay, joke’s over, let me out!” Leila begged, banging on the door. “Don’t you want to see the magicians?”

“Sure we do!” called one of the girls through the thick wood. “That’s where we are headed right now.”

“Come join us… if you can!” called another. Laughter rang out like the cries of crows that often sounded across the playground outside. Their footsteps faded as they ran away.

Leila knew what would happen when she tried the knob, but—always hopeful—she tried it anyway.

It was locked. And she was alone. Again.

Leila swiveled her head back and forth, but the dark was so complete her eyes didn’t register any movement. Her heart thundered as it usually did whenever the gang of girls shoved her in here. The acrid smell of the damp wooden walls stung her nose.

In the past, it had taken an adult an hour or more to discover Leila cowering in the corner of the closet. And whenever they did find her, they scolded Leila as if she had locked herself in the headmistress’s closet.

To calm down, Leila imagined herself as a beautiful girl who was part of the magic show downstairs: purposely shut inside a cabinet on stage, then wowing the audience by disappearing without a trace, with a flash and a bang and a whizzz-zup!

Frustration clenched her body. The magic show was the only thing she’d been looking forward to recently. She wanted to see white doves fly from the formal jackets of the magicians, flower bouquets appear from thin air, playing cards float up and out of a deck.…

Leila decided she was not going to allow those girls to ruin this for her. For the first time, she’d stand up, really stand up to them. But before she could do that, she had to figure out a way to escape.

Leila felt around in the dark, pushing her finger against the keyhole. Perhaps there was a way to unlock it from the inside. Leila had never picked a lock before, but she’d read about heroes doing it in stories. First, she’d need some tools. She plucked out the bobby pin holding her hair in place and stuck it in the keyhole. She turned it back and forth. Inside the lock, the tool met the tumblers. She heard them clinking. But without another pin, she wouldn’t be able to catch them and turn the locking mechanism.

She didn’t have another bobby pin. But she was standing inside Mother Margaret’s office closet. Sweeping the floor with her fingers, her heart sped up as she encountered a lone paper clip. Luck was on her side!

She unfolded the clip. She stuck the tip into the keyhole and felt around, putting tension on the plug, seeing how far it would give. The pins clicked against the tumblers but kept slipping.

A muffled cheer came from the floor below. The show had begun.

“No, no, no!” Leila whispered to herself. In her mind’s eye, she pictured the mob of magicians standing on stage, pulling rabbits out of hats, transforming marbles into pearls, levitating chairs, and flipping black silk cloaks over their shoulders. She’d been counting on some magical memories to get her through the next few months with a smile on her face.

The more she rushed, the harder it was to manipulate the pin and clip in the keyhole. Minutes ticked by, until it felt as though she might never escape. She worried the show would end before she broke out. Leila was about to throw down her tools in frustration when she felt a distinct click, and the door swung open a crack. She tapped her feet excitedly against the floor in a celebratory dance.

At the top of the stairwell, a voice sounded from below: “And now for our final act…” The sound of clapping grew louder as Leila raced halfway down, then paused. In the rec room, several rows of chairs were arranged around a platform, upon which sat a distinctive man in a black suit and a tall top hat. A black cape fell from his shoulders, and when he moved his arms, a red silk lining winked at her. The man’s hair was pure white and made of curls, while a straight black mustache smirked from the top of his lips. Leila plopped herself onto a middle step and watched the man with the curly white hair through the rickety wooden balusters.

You must already know who the man with the curly white hair is… but Leila didn’t. This was the moment she saw Mr. Vernon for the very first time, and the sight took her breath away. Do you remember when Carter first encountered Mr. Vernon? It was on the night that Carter arrived in Mineral Wells. He came down from the train yard to blend in with the crowds at Bosso’s circus. Mr. Vernon’s deft skills—flipping two coins around and around between his knuckles—blew Carter’s mind.

Now, as Leila watched this same man’s two assistants tie him tightly to a metal chair, she felt something even more profound than Carter had. She was certain that she’d escaped from the closet upstairs so that fate would allow her to see this man.

The stage assistants’ faces were covered with a thin black stretchy fabric. First, they cuffed the man’s ankles to the chair’s legs. Then they wrapped a long chain around his torso and the chair’s back, so that his arms were pinned to his sides. The orphans in the audience gasped as the assistants attached a thick padlock to the ends of the chain, which hung in the center of his chest. When they slipped an oil-cloth sack over the man’s head, several of the children cried out in fear.

Mother Margaret stood and waved her arms. “Mr. Vernon is a professional!” she said. “Do not be alarmed!”

The man’s voice came from under the hood. “Do be alarmed!” he corrected. “For if I haven’t freed myself by the end of this very minute, I shall run out of oxygen.” Mother Margaret looked sheepish as she sat back down, as if thinking she’d made a mistake inviting this man to possibly perish in front of her wards.

Leila clung to the balusters, peering through like they were the bars of a cage. The two assistants held up a large white sheet before draping it over Mr. Vernon’s body. The sheet covered him from head to toe. One of the assistants brought out a large hourglass timer, then set it down on the floor so that everyone could watch as the sand slipped through, second by second by second.

Leila held her breath. The figure under the sheet wriggled and writhed. The clanging of the clasped chains rang through the room. She couldn’t help but think of herself trapped in the closet upstairs minutes earlier.

As the final grains poured into the bottom of the hourglass, the children chanted, “Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” The figure under the sheet grew still. Seconds passed. The audience stood, a few at a time, jaws agape, wondering if this was all part of the trick.

Leila cried out, “Take off the hood! Someone help him!”

Frantic, the two assistants raced back onto the stage. They raised the sheet, held it up before the seated man, and peered cautiously behind it. Turning to the audience, they shook their masked heads, as if to say, We’re too late! The orphans went wild, some screaming, as the assistants dropped the sheet to the floor.

The chair where Mr. Vernon had been seated was empty!

The room erupted in gasps of surprise until one of the assistants turned to the audience and removed his mask. As soon as the pure white curls sprang out from beneath, Leila knew that they’d all been had. The magician did escape—and in the most unexpected way. The crowd cheered as if someone had just announced that all of them were being adopted that day.

The man with the curly white hair stepped to the edge of the stage, grinned, then took a long bow. Leila was so floored she nearly slid down the stairs. Instead she stood and clapped harder and longer than anyone else.

When the applause ended, Leila pushed her way through the crowd, elbowing the tall girl and her gruff goons aside, to approach the man. “How did you do that, Mr. Vernon?”

His eyes lit up when he saw her face. He paused as if lost in a trance, then answered quietly, “I’ll bet you know exactly why I cannot tell you.”

Leila thought hard. “A magician never reveals his secrets?”

The man chortled. He tapped her forehead lightly. “A bit psychic, are you?”

“Not that I know of,” said Leila, rubbing at the spot where he’d touched her. She felt the other orphans pushing in from behind her. She fought to block them out of her mind. “Were you really in danger?”

“Oh, but I am always in danger,” he said with a wink.

Leila laughed. “I want to learn how to escape like you did.”

“I see.” He squinted. “Well, it takes years of practice. Is that something you’d be prepared to do?”

“Oh yes! I’d practice every minute of every day to be like you!”

“Well, enthusiasm is rarely a bad thing,” he said, considering. “What is your name, dear?”

“Leila,” she answered quietly.

Leila,” he echoed. “How pretty! And how long have you lived here with Mother Margaret?”

“All my life.”

He was quiet for a moment. “I’d like to come see you again, Leila. Would that be all right?”

Leila’s face flushed. “It’d be more than all right!” she exclaimed. “Maybe you can teach me a trick or two?”

“Maybe…” He grinned again, the corners of his eyes crinkling with amusement. With both hands, he pinched his fingers together. As he moved his hands apart, Leila noticed that he held a soft white rope between them. He dropped one end and lowered the rope slowly into her outstretched palm. “For you. See what you can do with this. Might I suggest learning different types of knots? They can be helpful in many situations.”

Leila’s face flushed a deeper pink. She wanted to throw her arms around his neck and say thank you, but she didn’t want to make him think she was a weirdo.

At that moment, the other orphans crowded forward, asking for Mr. Vernon’s autograph and edging Leila away. She didn’t mind. He was going to come back and see her again. He’d teach her a trick. Maybe.

She’d be ready. She’d have some new knots to show him in response.

Later, in the bedroom she shared with five other orphans, Leila pulled a tin box out from a hiding place behind a brick in the wall beside her bed. She opened the lid, revealing a few loose, glittering keys.

One key was very special to her. You see, when someone placed Leila on the doorstep of Mother Margaret’s Home as an infant, they’d wrapped her in a blanket and left a string looped around her neck, with a key tied to it like a pendant. Of course, Leila didn’t remember any of that; she knew the story only because Mother Margaret had shared it with her. It was this first key that’d made Leila start looking for spare ones, or ones that appeared to be lost. She hoped that someday she’d have an interesting collection of all shapes and sizes.

Staring down at her keys, Leila thought about the magic show and how Mr. Vernon had managed to break out of those impossible chains. For the first time, she felt like she’d unlocked something inside herself: a wish to escape. Really escape.

When the man with the white curly hair returned later that week with his husband, offering to adopt her, her wish came true—like magic.


One night, years later, in the apartment over Vernon’s Magic Shop, Leila Vernon stretched out atop her big bed, unable to sleep. Thoughts of dark closets kept popping into her head whenever she closed her eyes. A thin patchwork quilt covered Leila’s wiry frame, barely protecting her from the brisk air that crept through the open window of her bedroom.

The window looked out over Main Street and the green park that extended far out in both directions. The orange glow of streetlights shifted on the walls and ceiling as the shadows of leafy branches danced to a quiet music composed by the crickets and peeping tree frogs that called out to each other from the nestled hills surrounding the town of Mineral Wells.

Before bedtime, Leila’s two fathers had tucked the blanket around Leila’s body and kissed her good night, wishing her pleasant dreams. But Leila knew that no wish could protect her from memories of her old life. The dead of night was when they usually came to visit. Sometimes the memories were uninvited guests who stayed long after receiving cues that it was time to go. Sometimes they tried to sneak in, like cloddish cat burglars who had no clue how to finagle a locked door. And sometimes the memories seeped like sulfur smoke through cracks in the walls, threatening to choke and smother Leila, stinging her big brown eyes.

When the other memories became too much to handle, Leila would recall her adoption by the Vernons. She held on to the hand of that memory, as if it could lead her to safety. Sometimes it worked. But sometimes the darkness in those locked closets was too difficult to see through.

Especially after everything that had happened with B. B. Bosso and his circus of thieves several weeks before…

Leila blinked at the ceiling, feeling both blessed and cursed—happy to have this home and this family, but annoyed that the past kept knocking to be let in. This won’t do, she thought. She whipped away the quilt, then scurried to her bookshelf, where she’d placed her secret tin box.

The box rattled noisily. She drew it to her chest to quiet it. Next door was the room of her newfound cousin, Carter. She didn’t want the clamor to wake him.

Leila lifted the lid and stared at her key collection, which had grown substantially in the years since she’d moved to Mineral Wells. But her first key, the one tied to the string, the one that had been with her on the night Mother Margaret found her on the orphanage doorstep, sat on the very top. Leila lifted the string and let the key swing back and forth like a mesmerist’s pendulum.

She thought about Bosso and Carter and the other Misfits. She knew that Carter must also suffer from memories of his former life. She wondered if he ever thought of his missing parents, as she sometimes wondered why her own had deserted her on a dark, cold night. Other times, she was happy to not think of them at all. She pressed her hand against the cold key, as if to make an impression against her skin, one that she might use to forge a copy. Her body warmed the key, and the key warmed her body and calmed her mind.

From somewhere beyond her bedroom door, the sound of a commotion stirred: a chair suddenly shifting, a pile of books toppling from a shelf, things crashing to the floor. Next came a sharp and fearful yelp.


Leila raced into the darkness of the hallway, where she was instantly barraged with small, sharp objects flying at her, pecking her like angry birds. With a yelp, she swung her hand at the nearest light switch. The hall flooded with a soft glow.

Carter was crouched at his own bedroom door, shooting playing cards from his hands toward Leila. (Not angry birds after all, thank goodness!) She swatted them away. “Carter, it’s only me!”

He stopped immediately. “Oh geez, I’m sorry!”

His blond hair was a mess, his cheeks red and marked by rumpled bedsheets. He must have been woken up by the loud sounds as well. Of course, he had come out of his room prepared with his favorite weapon—a deck of cards. He asked, “Are you okay?”

Leila nodded. “You heard the crash and the yelp too?”

Before he could answer, there was another crash. The clamor came from behind Mr. Vernon’s office door. It was as if the man were barreling into furniture and knocking things over.

Leila and Carter pounded on the door. From inside, her dad gave a muffled grunt. Carter tried the knob, but it was locked. Leila whipped out her lucky lockpicks from the pocket of her nightgown. With a few swift movements, Leila worked her magic, and the door swung inward.

Dante Vernon was standing in the corner, his curly white hair mussed, his dark eyes as wide as the crystal balls that he sold in the magic shop downstairs. His chest heaved as if he’d just sprinted around the block. “Oh good,” he said with a sudden smile. “At least now I know I’m not dreaming. Please shut the door. We can’t let it get out of the room with my book.”

Despite her confusion, Leila did as she was told.

It?” asked Carter. “What do you mean by it?”

Mr. Vernon pointed beneath his desk. Something in the shadows let out a horrifying screech.

Both Leila and Carter jumped.

“I’d been writing in my notebook when I dozed off. I woke up when something snatched the book out from under my hand,” Vernon explained. “The creature snuck in through the window, which I’ve closed and locked. It’s of vital importance that we get my book back. Understood?”

Leila and Carter nodded.

“Carter, toss me the little rope on the table beside you,” Vernon directed. Carter threw the white cord, and Vernon caught it one-handed. “Now, Leila, when I say go, slide the chair away, okay? On the count of three.”

Leila nodded even though she wasn’t nearly as ready as she would’ve liked. But that was what it meant to be a Vernon and a member of the Magic Misfits. You trusted your friends and your family… even when they asked you to help catch a mysterious creature that had snuck into their office in the middle of the night.


Leila edged toward the chair.


Something growled from under the desk. Leila felt her stomach move up into her throat.



  • A Barnes and Noble Best Book of 2018
  • "Acceptance, love, and understanding are at the heart of this novel, which features a diverse cast of child characters... the message that friendship helps children conquer adversity is a welcome one."—Kirkus
  • "Harris doles out humor, suspense, and sensitivity in equal measure..."—School Library Journal
  • "[A] for bedtime [reading]."
    Good Housekeeping

On Sale
Sep 25, 2018
Page Count
336 pages

Neil Patrick Harris

About the Author

Neil Patrick Harris is an accomplished actor, producer, director, host, author, husband, and father of magical twins. Harris also served as President of the Academy of Magical Arts from 2011-2014. His memoir, Choose Your Own Autobiography, was a New York Times bestseller. The New York Times bestsellingMagic Misfitsseries is his middle grade debut.

Learn more about this author