Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting for the Magic

MacLachlan, Patricia. 2011. Waiting for the Magic. New York: Atheneum.

Fifth-grader, William's, father doesn't like dogs. When Papa deserts the family, going off "to write," one summer morning, Mama loads William and 4-year-old Elinor into the car and heads for the local animal shelter.
"What kind of dog are we getting? I asked.
"Whatever they have," said Mama.
"Can we get a cat?" asked Elinor from the back.
"Yes," said Mama.
For a moment I thought about asking for a horse, but I didn't think Mama's mood about animals would last that long.
At the shelter, Mama makes another impulsive decision,

"We'll take them all," Mama said crisply,

the protective Bryn, high-energy Bitty, peaceful Grace, friendly Neo and Lulu, the very patient cat. It is Elinor who first understands the nature of their new pets.  She waves her toy magic wand above them, and they sit patiently, orderly, and they talk - but only Elinor can hear them, because the only
ones who know magic are:
The young
The old
The brave
The honest
The joyful

What will it take for the rest of the family, including Papa, to "know the magic?" It will take love and bravery and honesty and time.

Waiting for the Magic is a short (143 pages) chapter book peppered with simple and attractive penciled sketches by Amy June Bates, perfect for young readers, ages 9-12.  It has some similarities with Kate Feiffer's delightful book, The Problem with the Puddles. Both feature endearing, talking dogs as fully developed characters.

Though Waiting for the Magic is told in William's voice, the dogs often interrupt,

Neo
He misses his father.

Bitty
Yes, he does.

Neo
Can you move over, Bitty?

Bitty
The cat's there.

Neo
The cat's name is Lula, Bitty.  Lula.

Bitty
Okay, Lula.
I know you like her. You ask her to move over.
Printed in italics and placed in the center of the page, readers will have no trouble distinguishing the canine dialogue, and will enjoy the dogs' sometimes silly and sometimes profound commentary.

Newbery winner Patricia MacLachlan's gentle treatment of a difficult topic is laced with humor, magic, and a happy ending.  An enjoyable read.

Read an excerpt here.

© Amy June Bates
This cover image is taken from Amy June Bates' website,
where it is just so precious, that it deserves a visit.

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