written by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Amy June Bates
Atheneum Books for Young Reader, 2011
Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviewed from copy borrowed from school library.
The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.
People may drift apart
But love can hold them together.
Sometimes we find that love through magic –
Sometimes that magic is all around us
This is a story about all of these things.
But it's also a story about how
and one cat
help one boy
and his sister
save their family.
This is a rather interesting blurb. I think this is the first blurb I've read that reads like a poem. Yet it fits the rather dreamy, gentle nature of the story. In some ways it reminds me of Kate DiCamillo's work on The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, or The Magician's Elephant. The writing is certainly as good as DiCamillo's and the illustrations add a nice touch. I really enjoy middle grade books with illustrations.
I'll admit when I started reading this I didn't really like it, it seemed to unbelievable, I mean adopting FIVE animals after the father walks out. How realistic is that? But by the time I finished the story, MacLachlan had won me over. Yes, the book is not necessarily realistic in terms of the practical nature of real life, but at the same time the emotions it projects are very real. The anger that William feels toward his father, the confusion of his younger sister, Elinor, seem all too real.
The talking animals threw me for a loop at first, but gradually the humor and insights of the dogs made me smile. The dogs seem to represent the 'magic' of the title, but not in the way one might think. The talking dogs do of course move this book into the fantasy genre, but it doesn't feel like fantasy. The predominant feeling is one of hope, love, and forgiveness and how people can change when they have the support of loved ones. It's interesting that the book should have such a light, gentle touch considering it's dealing with a hard subject (parental conflict and separation), but the comfort the characters receive through their adopted pets makes the book a good one to share with students not ready for heavier, darker treatments of the same subject.
I recommend this book for students who like slower paced, gentle reads with adorable characters.
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