‘What is Magic?’ explores learning how to swim

Learning to swim is a milestone for any child, especially in Hawai‘i where we are surrounded by water. Author Sharon Mosley of Maui uses this as the topic for her first children’s book, “What is Magic?” ($15.95, Xlibris Corporation). Interestingly, although the book and illustrations are about a young boy learning how to swim, the setting is no where near an ocean or pool, but in a garden where the boy, Ty, and his Grandmother, paint an old shed, and talk story about how Ty learned to float and be comfortable in the water. “What is Magic?” takes on a more reflective tone, rather than an action-packed, adventure story, with Mosley tackling some complex concepts, such as trust, overcoming fear, and personal willpower, and, over the course of the story, defining what ‘real magic’ is.

Prompted by his Grandma, Ty recalls how he learned to swim, and Grandma explains that it “was real magic, real change. You let your fear disappear.” The dialogue between Ty and his Grandmother shows the positive relationship that can exist between grandchildren and their grandparents, and the genuine learning about the world that can take place with a trusted elder. The intended audience, however, (ages 4-8) may at times drift from the ongoing conversation of the story, as there is a lot of telling rather than showing in the text.

But children will relate when Ty makes his own connection with the lessons he is being taught, telling Grandma, “Sometimes I feel magic when I do a trick on my skateboard.” Ty’s epiphany is accompanied by an impressive collage illustration of him on his skateboard against a flowing, layered sky and colorful cityscape.

All of the illustrations, created by the author’s daughter, Maya Mosley, are detailed collage pieces, a departure from most children’s books, with large drawings and paintings. Because of the somewhat layered, intricate illustrations, readers will find something new they did not notice the first time when re-reading the book, including the very subtle transformation of the wall of an old shed being turned into a painted mural (also explained in the ‘discussion’ at the end of the book). The collage illustrations are not large, bright easy shapes that young readers usually gravitate towards, but are more textured and complex, much like the discussions between Ty and his Grandmother, which makes this 21 page soft cover one of a kind.

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