What do you do with an evil genius if you’ve already explored his skulduggery in two previous books? If you’re Cary Fagan, you reform him, under the tutelage of his former victims. In this third volume about Kaspar Snit, Eleanor and Solly Blande and their parents, that famous flying family, respond to Snit’s plea that they help “squeeze the evil out of him” and teach him how to be a normal person. In the mornings, Eleanor has him as a science teacher under the name of Mr. Parsstinka; in the afternoons, she and Solly coach him through a rigorous, 10-step curriculum, which includes such un-Snit-like activities as “build a rowboat,” “tell a joke,” and “take care of a baby.”
Lovelorn Snit strives to reform so he can win the hand of the Blandes’ former nanny, Mrs. Leer. Meanwhile, an imposter – or is it Snit himself? – is pulling some very mean-spirited robberies. A “famous creature catcher,” a gold sarcophagus, and chicken nuggets all come into play before Fagan wraps up this lighthearted caper.
Fagan has a cheery eye for the absurd, and Ten Lessons is leavened with intelligent silliness. “There will be no fishpond with live piranhas this year,” the principal comments when inviting the Blandes to the school fair, giving us a tantalizing glimpse of a lunatic quality of life. At another point, Dad says, “I want to finish this article about a new sport using vacuum cleaners.” These throwaway lines, as well as other aspects of Fagan’s dry humour, imbue the story with a warm understanding of the vicissitudes of ordinary family life and growth.