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Book reviews from 4-7 years: Magic

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Disappearing rabbits, magical pigs and a donkey’s answer to Houdini – we review the latest magic books.

Zoe and the wishing star

Zoë and the Wishing Star by Jane Andrews (Piccadilly, ISBN 9781853409875)

This is, apparently, the tenth book in the Zoë series, but a new one for my class. They were very taken with Zoë the fairy and her friend Pip, who live in the fairy garden (where else?) and do kind deeds with the minimum of fuss and bother.

Katie and Emma particularly loved the ‘creative patterns in some of the pictures’, which were ‘all multicoloured and going up and down – whoosh!’ They were also pleased with the helpful nature of the fairies, who managed to make several people happy at once when they received a wish via the beautiful, shining ‘Wishing Star’.

The whole class enjoyed the feel-good factor found in these pages. We will definitely be looking for the rest of this series, to find out whether Zoë and Pip are always so successful in their missions!


A small surprise

A Small Surprise by Louise Yates (Jonathan Cape, ISBN 9780224083416)

Matthew and Jack thought this book was ‘amazing’; it really made them chuckle. With sparing text but wonderfully expressive illustrations, we see the more exotic, larger animals helping the tiny white rabbit to do the things that he finds difficult because he’s too small. Snake wipes his nose, Gorilla gives a hand with the trickiest task for rabbits and children alike – shoelaces – and all the animals sympathise with his tightrope-walking problems.

Matthew and Jack found the pictures highly amusing, especially the ‘messy one’ and the last-page joke. They spent some time studying the rabbit’s disappearance into the magical fez – and not a sign of Tommy Cooper!

This is a terrific book for children to read either to themselves or to enjoy with company. And as white rabbits should, this one can, of course, disappear…


Hee-Haw-Dini

Hee-Haw-Dini And the Great Zambini by Kim Kennedy and Doug Kennedy (Abrams, ISBN 9780810970250)

Tim and George chose this book for its glowing illustrations – they loved the picture of the delighted Hee-Haw the donkey and his friend Chester the mouse gazing into the Great Zambini’s magic chest (’... brilliant sparkling colours’).

The two struggling magician friends find the chest and, with practice, manage to put on a fabulous magic show for the other doubting animals. The animals are incredulous when they find out that ‘Hee-Haw-Dini’ and ‘Zaba Zaba’ are none other than their own farmyard friends.

Finally, the two magicians are ‘discovered’ by Zambini himself – a heart-warming lesson that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. As the great magician says: ‘True magic begins when one has the courage and heart to simply believe.’


Pigwitchery

Pigwitchery by Lee Weatherly and Nathan Reed (Macmillan, ISBN 9781405093187)

Cian and Saoirshe were very impressed with the magical pictures in this beautifully illustrated story. The different shades in Pigwitch’s surroundings and the large splashes of colour add real impact, making this an ideal book to read aloud to a class.

In the beginning, Pigwitch keeps everyone happy by making wonderful things happen on the farm – the cows produce chocolate milk, the chickens lay not golden but rainbow-coloured eggs, and there are fabulous singing cats. However, the magic doesn’t last, and Pigwitch is forced to travel far and wide to ask the wise old pig to help him regain his gift.

Saoirshe loved the sparkly title, and both children were entertained by the idea of the little pig eventually finding out that he had magic in his curly tail all along!


Leon and the place between

Leon And The Place Between by Angela McAllister and Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar, ISBN 9781840118018)

This is a breathtaking discovery; with so much to look at on every page, it almost seems a waste to read the book to a class-sized group. Children need to be near to the pages to pour over the imaginative illustrations. Each one is a work of art in its own right, and the cleverly designed text has a wide variety of fonts (although some of the children found parts of the text hard to read for themselves).

Megan and Ben loved the ‘colourful pictures’ and the way that ‘you can actually see the magic happening’. They liked the ‘old-fashioned’ feel of the book, often created by using a fantastic golden filigree effect and deep, rich shading. Purple and dark green feature heavily, and the light, sparkling touches relieve the gloom very effectively. Mysterious and intriguing, this book is a truly magical reading experience.


Box of tricks

Box Of Tricks by Katie Cleminson (Jonathan Cape, ISBN 9780224083447)

The musical rabbits lure you into this explosion of colour and action, as they dance their way across the opening pages. Eva is given a special box for her birthday. She jumps into it – who wouldn’t? – and in an instant becomes a master magician.

It’s largely the contrasts that make this story one to remember. Black, white and grey are used to magical effect when the riot of red and blue is added to the background (which, incidentally, gave us some great ideas for art lessons!)

Ella commented, wide-eyed, that she had ‘never seen a book quite like this one before’, whereas Luke was more impressed with the humorous aspect of the story – the dancing polar bears, the flying gooey gateau and the funny ending where everything vanishes… apart from… well, I won’t spoil the surprise.

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