Magic in the City, by Heather Dyer, for Timeslip Tuesday

Magic in the City, by Heather Dyer (Kids Can Press, April 2017), is a pleasantly old-fashioned sort of magic story (which is to say, in the tradition of E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, and other Nesbit-esque writers).  It's also this week's time slip Tuesday book.

So the lives of the three children, brothers Jake and Simon, and their cousin Hannah, are more or less ordinary, except for the boys and their mother have come to England to live with Hannah's family, and their home in Canada is being sold.  But then an encounter with a street magician makes things most extraordinary indeed, when he give each of them a gift--a flying carpet, a time stopper, and a camera-shaped device that takes it's user into whatever picture it's focused on.  None of them come with instructions.

This means, of course, that the kids have to figure out how the magical things work by trial and error.  Misteps and mischances result in confusions and annoyances to the grown-ups affected (although the Queen of England, visited with the help of the time stopper, appreciates its magic very  much....).   The picture device lands the kids on the ship of Sir Walter Raleigh, who assumes the strangers who have suddenly appeared on board are pirates. A mischance leaves them stuck there for rather longer than they'd like, and when they return to their own time, the cabin boy comes too.  Though he's happy to have been transported away from the voyage he was loathing, he still presents a problem that must be somehow dealt with....But everything works out in the end.

I think it was Edward Eager who had one of his young characters say her favorite type of book was one where the children found magic and had to tame it and figure it out and make it work for them....That's pretty much the type of book this is, and although it was not as ambitious and powerful as Nesbit at her best, nor as amusing and rich in character as Eager at his, it is a book that will be enjoyed nicely by fans of both.   It is a stand-alone story, which means that the ending is an ending, but there is room left for more adventure.  It is also not a long story, being a mere 143 pages, but though I would have happily moved more slowly through the magical adventures, 143 pages did the job just fine.

The reader will be left wondering which of the three magical devices would be nicest to have.  Not the camera, though time travelling into favorite pictures would be fun, the chances of things going wrong are too great.  The magic carpet is too visible, and doesn't work when wet, so it's a bit chancy.  The time stopper would potentially be addictive, and I would end up looking old before my time because of using it for a few hours every morning before I go to work.  But goodness, imagine if instead of hitting the snooze button you just stopped time for ten or so minutes!

Looking at review on Amazon, this quote from a 10 year old made me feel a little sad-"I found the reading level a little bit easy for me. I found the interest level very good for my age."  Kids shouldn't have to be preoccupied by reading levels once they get past the learning to read with confidence stage.  Or interest levels for that matter, with the implication that higher levels are desirable....You will all be pleased, but perhaps not surprised, that I had no problem reading the book, but I cannot make any sort of blanket statement about whether its interest was age-appropriate for me.

Which reminds me--today I was telling an academic colleague about 20 years younger than me that I review kids books, and she told me how adorable it was about five times.  Sigh. I will go play with my dolls now, I guess.


  1. Thanks for this review. I love the sound of this book. I will definitely be checking it out.

  2. Laughing wryly at your colleague. There's no explaining to some people!

  3. Yeah, I've written about half a dozen posts attempting to refute the perception that kids' books (and those adults who are in the business of reading, creating, sharing, reviewing, or otherwise appreciating them) are somehow lesser. But I suppose no one with that attitude is likely to read my posts! Oh well; stick to it!


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