Book: The Magic Word
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Elise Parsley
Age Range: 4-8
When one sees a picture book entitled The Magic Word, one might understandably fear that it will be some moralizing tale about the importance of saying please. One might have this fear, that is, were the author someone other than Mac Barnett. But any aficionado of humorous picture books knows that Mac Barnett is sure to have more fun up his sleeves than that. And he does.
The Magic Word is about a boy named Paxton C. Heymeyer who, when prompted by his babysitter for "the magic word" says: "Can I have a cookie, ALAKAZOOMBA?" When a cookie immediately appears in his hand, young Paxton does what any right-minded child would do. He starts using ALAKAZOOMBA to request other things, like "a walrus that will chase the babysitter up to the North Pole" and a waterslide into the (new) pool in his living room. Paxton's exploits, and his house, get bigger and bigger. But after his friend Rosie shows a marked lack of appreciation for the whole ALAKAZOOMBA thing, Paxton begins to get a tad lonely. The resolution of The Magic Word is rather predictable overall, but with a refreshing, black-humorous twist at the very end.
The Magic Word is fairly text-dense, with a lot of dialog, and feels like more a book for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers. Here's a snippet:
""Pax," said Rosie, "you're a terrible host."
Well, Paxton wasn't going to stand there and be insulted in his very own house, let alone his very own castle with a helipad and pink-lemonade moat.
Paxton is not, perhaps, the nicest kid you'll read about in a picture book this week, but The Magic Word is chock-full of kid-friendly wish fulfillment. A lemonade moat. A swimming pool in the living room. A pet elephant. A roller coaster zipping around one's house. You get the idea. Elise Parsley's digitally generated illustrations bring all of these innovations, and more, to colorful life. She also clearly gets across Paxton's rather bratty personality, particularly in a close-up near the end of the book of what can only be described as an evil leer.
The Magic Word is a book that kids will find fun from cover to cover. It should spark lots of interesting discussions, too, about what they would do if they discovered a magic word that could give them anything. I'm pretty sure that my daughter will be writing a "magic word" story of her own quite soon. Recommended!
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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