LONGLISTED FOR THE NORTH SOMERSET TEACHERS' BOOK AWARD PICTURE BOOK CATEGORY
I often struggle not to judge a book by its cover, but with ‘Life is Magic’ I can judge it by its cover, endpapers, sleeve… and that’s all before even reading the book. The inside is equally as loveable. In fact, from beginning to end, this book is an absolute delight!
A tale of magic tricks, loyalty and bunnies (lots and lots of bunnies), ‘Life is Magic’ is brimming with character. Houdini is the perfect magician’s assistant. He was born to perform, always popping out of the hat at exactly the right time; he is organised, taking care of all of the pre-show checks; he keeps the rest of the rabbity team together; but most importantly he loves magic. Dedicated and loyal as he is, one night, when a small banana-skinned mishap threatens to ruin the magician’s show, Houdini hops into action. Grabbing the wand, Houdini points it and SHAZAAM… the trick is amazing, unbelievable and truly MAGIC!
Houdini finds himself thrust into the spotlight as a magician and the magician is left trying to be the perfect assistant (just as Houdini had once been). At first Houdini loves the attention and sparkle of being a star. But as time passes he notices how unhappy his friend, the magician is. So he hatches a plan. During the final act of his final performance, with the assistance of the rest of the rabbit team, Houdini performs his greatest trick: a trick powered by friendship and loyalty… SHAZAAM! The result is MAGIC!
As engaging and fun as the story is (because really, it is), there is true brilliance in the illustrations. The host of little bunnies are absolutely hilarious and constantly up to mischief in the back ground. There is also much that can be inferred from the pictures: they show glimpses of the action behind the scenes and give clues about what might happen next (did you see where that dreaded banana skin came from?). There is so much on each page to look at but the illustrations remain gentle and uncluttered.
The expression and character of every rabbit are an absolute joy and allows further exploration into emotions and feelings, especially of the magician who is made very unhappy by the turn of events. There is discussion to be had regarding the change of roles between the magician and the assistant, how this must have made each of them feel and how their friendship was tested as a result. The little rabbits are very simple to draw, yet each one is entirely individual. Through art, children could draw their own member of The Hoppers and consider how to change the facial expressions to show different emotions and situations: surprise, happiness, excitement, sadness, sleeping, ‘nom nom’ and ‘euch!’ The story allows for so many writing opportunities. Writing in role as Houdini, the magician or one of the other bunnies would allow children to explore the characters in greater depth. They could write two pieces, one before and one after the ‘big trick’ to show a contrast in the characters feeling and how they have been affected by the course of events. Houdini is shown giving basic instruction to his rabbity team whilst teaching the how to properly ‘TADAA!’ Children could write instructions or a 'how to' guide in order to teach the reader how to perform a simple magic trick (they could even follow instructions to learn how to perform a magic trick or two). Alternatively their guide could be about being a good magician or assistant. Throughout the book, posters and advertisements are shown in the background. Children could design their own persuasive posters, advertising the magic act, allowing them the opportunity to explore word play. The possibilities with this book are just endless.
This is a book that should be read over and over again. With each read, there is something else to notice, enjoy and have a little giggle at (it took more reads than I am happy to admit for me to twig that the rabbit is called Houdini whilst the magician is called Monsieur Lapin). I just love this book. It is absolute MAGIC!
Life is Magic written and illustrated by Meg McLaren
Andersen Press ISBN: 978-1783443383