Meet a cranky wizard; Tomorrow's Wizard, by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Kathy Jacobi. New York: Harper & Row. 80 pp. $9.50.

Wizards, as we all know, perch in clouds, rattle their wands, and shower the earth with promises. What we don't know -- but what Patricia MacLachlan tells us in her most magical of books -- is that wizards are often cranky, prone to indecision, and blighted with incompetent assistants.

In ''Tomorrow's Wizard,'' a wizard of the very same name bestows five important wishes. To help him are his apprentice wizard, Murdoch, a bumbling innocent with a face ''like a boiled onion,'' and a horse the color of clouds. Together they wed Rozelle, the village shrew, with Ethan, the tender giant; they aid a beauty who wants to be loved for herself; and they help a fiddlemaker find the perfect fiddle. In a wonderful twist on wish-granting, they help the Three-D family (Dreadful, Dastardly, Demon) by transforming a sickeningly sweet child into a lovable brat. Happily, they live unhappily ever after.

''Tomorrow's Wizard'' is a quietly stunning book, filled with poetry and parables. Kathy Jacobi's illustrations perfectly complement Patricia MacLachlan's lyrical storytelling. A book that should stand permanently on every child's shelf.

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...