Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Incredible Magic of Being

33224162Erskine, Kathryn. The Incredible Magic of Being
October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Nine year old Julian and his teenage sister Pookie move from the city to run and bed and breakfast by a lake in Maine with their mother and her wife, Joan. Julian, who is a quirky kid with unexplained health concerns that require regular use of antibiotics, is so afraid of drowning that he wears a life jacket everywhere. When a lawyer representing their neighbor, Mr. X, tells them that they will have to take down the addition they are building for the B&B because it is blocking Mr. X's view and decreasing his property values, the family is very concerned that they won't have the financial stability to remain. Julian befriends the crotchety man who can't get over the death of his wife, Julia, but who takes a grudging liking to Julian's impulsive but well meaning ways. The two even make a plot together to get a dog, but Mr. X puts the stipulation in place that Julian must learn to swim. Can Julian use his abilities to sense things about people and to appreciate "the incredible magic of being" to bring his family and Mr. X. around to his view of the world?
Strengths: This has a very supportive if somewhat dysfunctional family (the mother stopped being an ob/gyn because a baby in her care died; Pookie is obsessed by the idea of her sperm donor father) that tries to do the right things. There is diversity with the two mom figures, as well as Julian, who has Tetralogy of Fallot syndrome and seems suspiciously close to the autism spectrum, although he is never identified. The inclusion of an older adult assuming a reluctant grandparent role is interesting as well, and the Maine setting is a nice touch.
Weaknesses: This is one of those stories where nothing really happens. It's similar to books like Wonder or Because of Mr. Terupt, but I honestly can't think of any students to whom I would hand this. Julian is a bit young and naive, and there are inclusions of vast amounts of scientific facts that teachers will adore and students will not. The exception: if a teacher reads this aloud to a class and is passionate about the book, all of those students will adore it. There's a lot to be said about a teacher who gets really excited about a book and wants to share it. Unfortunately, I get very passionate about teenage spies, football fiction, and radioactive hamsters because those are a LOT easier to recommend.
What I really think: I will most likely not purchase, although the flaming marshmallow on the cover would lead children to pick up the book.

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