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Let's talk about Magic: An illustrated children’s book review

my own magic
my own magic

So, this review begins with another story: When Emperor Religion finally died, Medicine – the daughter of Science, that had been diligently digging Religion’s grave at least since the beginning of the twentieth century – took its place as the main provider of promise and the reinforcer of virtue. Now that it is Medicine the Dictator lying in the deathbed, the world is shifting fast towards liberal spiritualism, always looking for comfort from pain, and cover from the most fundamental fear — the fear or death.

As it always happens before the new settles in for good, this period of change is monopolized by extremes: On the one hand we have the Alternative Devouts, usually people who do not understand or trust the way science works or simply consider it insufficient compared to the holistic powers of the cosmos. On the other hand, there are the Documentation Fetishists. These are typically the white-collars and followers of the status quo, nurtured and still enchanted by it and ready to protect it with their lives. Both types coexist – for what is meant to be a finite amount of time – and seem to share almost equal credibility, supported by their respective circles and narratives that fuel their mutual scorn.The first group considers Documentation Fetishists of lower spiritual intelligence, or simply unenlightened, and they in turn consider Alternative Devouts uneducated, gullible morons. End of story.

When I opened Magic and found its first pages essentially rooted in New Age practices, such as energy healing and crystals, I thought it was going to be a love it or leave it situation, depending on which side you were on. Luckily, I was wrong.

The book presents alternative practices in a manner that encourages imagination, and evolves into a handy guide towards teaching children relaxation techniques, positive thinking and the building of a positive self-image. Even among the most conservative classical medicine fans, few will deny the benefits of meditation, the impact of acknowledging the good things we take for granted or how enumerating one’s good qualities boosts self-esteem. These are habits you would want your children to develop no matter whether you believe that everything and everyone is somehow connected or that we are just a heart and a brain that die, and that’s that.

Besides, Magic is crafted in a capturing manner. The character illustrations are simple and clear – perfect for attracting, and managing to keep, younger children's attention – but accompanied by intricate patterns, in a burst of technique and abundant color in the background. And the wordcraft adds to the pleasure of the eye: Magic is written, of course, in rhyme!

But what the book also does, and is probably its greatest unintentional achievement, is that it values a child’s perception of the world. The fundamental reason why children will like the book, want to try out the suggested techniques – which they’ll see as interesting games – and be open to its ideas is because all of these things are so close to their own magical thinking. Children believe that their imagination affects reality, believe in things they don’t see, believe in the eternal existence of the self. So, Magic gives this special stage the credibility rationalism threatens to take away. And perhaps this kind of fluidity, the hybridity that is still missing from the spirituality vs science debate has something to teach us, the grown-ups with the set minds and cemented opinions that foster emperors and dictators.

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Friday, 28 December 2018 17:30