Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Notes: "The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel," by Susan Hill Long

The Magic Mirror, by Susan Hill Long, was a recent read-aloud of ours, and it was a good one.

It's a children's fantasy, set in a medieval world, complete with a recognizably Catholic belief system. That background presence of religion was actually one of the things I enjoyed about the book; it's not that I agreed completely with the religious beliefs of any of the characters, but it just felt more like a real world when there were people of faith, common superstitions, churches as part of the urban landscape, etc. It was interesting to read about a world where God was God, and God was good, but there were still bits of minor magic floating about, almost as if they were just another bit of creation.

We follow our heroine, Maggie, as she sets off on an adventure. It's a travel story, with colorful characters who are (on purpose, I'd bet) reminiscent of Chaucer's pilgrims.

Maggie is our lodestar, and her plot is always foremost, but the author threw in so many other things! The book is full of side quests, complications, and minor characters. There's danger, and dire deeds, and I appreciated that the author didn't gloss over the evilness of the villains or the foibles of the heroes, BUT she also never wallowed in any of the bad stuff, nor did she write about it in a way that's inappropriate for school-age kids.

(Note: There's definitely stuff here that you'd want to talk through with your kids--I'm not saying it's void of troubling or controversial content. But I found that it was all presented in a way that sparked good conversation with my kids, and not in a way that left me feeling like I had to do damage control. And that's something I like in kids' books. YMMV.)

I really enjoyed this one, though I found it odder than I expected. Occasionally that oddity felt irritating, but mostly it just made for an engaging, colorful tale. My kids were fascinated by the characters, and crowed at all the plot reveals as the story progressed. Recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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