A big problem that I have with many Middle Grade short chapter books, is that quite often they lean towards being formulaic. I know that children love to read them and certainly, they extend children beyond simple readers and picture books. However, they can have a fairly limited use of vocabulary, and too often the writing tends to lack in sophistication. In short, they get kids reading but they don’t always challenge them or push them beyond their comfort zone. It is refreshing to read anything in this category that is beautifully written yet is still accessible for young readers. To his credit Jeffery E Doherty has achieved this with his chapter book Paper Magic.
When we meet Marina, she is about to start a new school. She is plagued by her feelings of uncertainty, lacking confidence in her abilities. She worries that she won’t be able to make friends and that this will be further challenged because she is in a wheelchair. When her Nana arrives with a gift of coloured paper, a magical adventure begins that will challenge her feelings of doubt.
Paper Magic will be valued by very young children in the early years with adult guidance, or, may be read independently by children from grades 2 to 5. As a class text it will incite rich discussions on the topics of inclusion, disability and difference. It could function well as a support text for resilience curriculums such as the Bounceback program by Toni Noble and Helen McGrath. It would even pair well with the likes of Dr Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go. Unfortunately, I found the front cover artwork uninspiring as it failed to follow the feel of the story and echo the quality of the illustrations found within. Children and young people tend to be sensitive to marketing trends and this package felt a little lacklustre and out of touch.
I appreciated Doherty’s story, told simply, in descriptive language that was always age appropriate and at times beautiful. I enjoyed the range of delightful pencil illustrations that complemented and broke up the text into manageable chunks. Paper Magic explores themes that include living with disability and difference, friendship, strategies for building resilience and the joy of magic and the imagination.
Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden
***The author provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have otherwise not been paid for reviewing this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased opinion.***