Monday, July 20, 2009
Real Kids, Strange Power
Zilpha Keatley Snyder is very good at writing authentic children, even when she gifts those children with psychic abilities. In The Magic Nation Thing, Abby O'Malley is a smart girl with a craving for order who loves her mom even when that mother disappoints her. The mom, Dorcas, doesn't have that desire for order -- she enjoys running her private detective agency and making her own way in the world.
Abby has a rich friend, Paige, with two younger and obnoxious brothers. Abby also has her Magic Nation, an ability inherited from her grandmother, which lets her sometimes sense things about other people by holding their possessions. Any of these details could go off into afternoon-movie territory, but instead Snyder keeps the story close to Abby's center. Abby doesn't go off and start solving dangerous mysteries with her eleven year old assistant. She doesn't violently repudiate her unwanted abilities and suffer a great tragedy. She doesn't suddenly learn a great truth that helps her re-evaluate the world. Instead, she has small adventures, some involving her powers and some not, learns small things about herself and her friends, and watches the people around her do the same. I'm going to try to book on my fifth & third graders to see what they think; this in an author I'd like to share. A-.