When I discovered this book in our community library, I knew that I had to include it as part of our Circus, Carnivale, and Paranormal theme since it contains all the magical elements that we are looking for.
I am very happy to have chanced upon this lovely book. We’re also happy to include it as our contribution to Kelly Butcher’s Book Talk Tuesday.
“I don’t believe in magic,” said Tom, as he settled on the grass in the show tent. Around him the crowd waitd impatiently for something to happen. “It’s not real,” hissed Pete. “It’s only tricks.” Little Mo looked disappointed.
“Sssh now,” whispered their brother Leon. “It will be magic. You have to believe. Look, it’s going to begin.”
Not too old to Believe. I was privileged to watch David Copperfield’s magic show in Las Vegas in December of 2010 and it remains an unforgettable experience to date. It reminded me that I was not too old to believe in magic.
Somehow, this book by McAllister and Baker-Smith reminded me of that experience and spoke to the child in me whose eyes remain wide-eyed in wonder and awe of all things magical and in-between. Among the four siblings, it was only Leon who maintained this sense of belief. While his brothers and sister spoke of concealed tricks and sneered about sleights-of-hand, Leon opened his mind’s eye to the infinite realm of fantastical possibilities. The breathtaking illustrations of Baker-Smith reminded me a little bit of Dave McKean’s gorgeous illustrations – particularly the sharp-edged faces of the characters and the surreal artistry which is the exact (if only) fit for the carnivale vibe of the entire book. I simply fell in love with the story line and the breath-taking art work – you can almost get lost in it.
That Place In-Between. While the readers still get their fill of acrobats and jugglers and a mysterious barrel organ (that seems to play by itself), the book’s highlight is Abdul Kazam’s magic show in this circus tent.
“Trust nothing…” said Abdul Kazam, “But believe everything.”
He threw his arms into the air and the magic began.
Paper flowers blossomed from his sleeves, silk scarves changed colour at a whispered word; water, poured into a hat, turned into night air.
Bright white handkerchiefs became fluttering doves.
When we decided on this paranormal/carnivale theme, this is exactly what we had in mind – we wanted to showcase the strangenesses of circus life and tease out their threaded elements. Yet while the book is tinged with purple-hazed darkness and creepy shades of the in-between, there is a bright bright light here that can not be denied as well. The book took a Parnassus turn when Abdul Kazam revealed a door into a box and challenged the spectators: “Who will step into the magic?” Leon felt that the box called out to him and there was no question about it, no fear in his heart, no sign of indecisiveness. He stepped into the box and discovered the place between.
I have always been fascinated by the spaces between. Physicists call it cracks in the universe (a rip in its fabric or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time), circus people call it magic shows, sci-fi aficionados may refer to it as a portal to another dimension. You can reach it through dream-like states, hypnosis, tapping into one’s subconscious – or opening this lovely book by McAllister and Grahame-Smith.
“Between there and back again. This is the place where MAGIC sends you.”
A great movie that would be a perfect companion for this picture book is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. There are mixed reactions to this film, but I loved it.
I have touched the space-in-between through conversations with deep, dark people whose words have brought me to spaces unexplored. If you were Leon, would you step into the box?
Leon and the Place Between by Angela Mc Allister and Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. Templar Publishing, 2008. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos were taken by me.
Shortlisted for the 2010 CILIP Kate Greenaway award. Judge’s Top Choice for Scholastic Best Books 2009.
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