CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 28. . . .March 23, 2018
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book. (Book 1).
Alice Kuipers. Illustrated by Diana Toledana.
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), May, 2018.
105 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Karen Rankin.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Back in the kitchen I hunt for my pen. I’m always looking for my stuff! I wonder if sometimes my things scurry around the house like busy mice. Where is my pen? A-HA! I slide it from behind my ear. ***
As I write, I try to make my letters bubbly: This book belongs to Polly Diamond.
Whoa! A bizarre, baffling thing happens. Under my name, a tiny black dot pops onto the page.
Slowly, the dot moves. All by itself.
It becomes the letter H.
I touch it. As I take my finger away, another letter appears.
An L is next.
Then another L.
Then an O.
Then, like a sprinter rushing to finish the race, it spells my name followed by an exclamation mark!
HELLO, Polly Diamond!
The book is writing back to me!
“Polly?” Mom calls from upstairs. “Could you come and help Anna?”
I hear Anna yell, “No! No! No!” She is three and a half.
“In one teeny minute,” I yell back. I run my finger over the words: HELLO, Polly Diamond!
The book writes: Stop! That tickles!
I’m woozy (woozy is one of my favourite words. I love words with double letters in them.) I’m dizzy (double zz!)! I wonder if I might faint.
I’ve always wondered what fainting might feel like.
But I don’t faint. Instead I write: How do you do that?
Write back to me.
I’m a writing and spelling book. That’s what I do! Do you like to write, too?
Everything! Stories! Lists!
Top Names To Call My New Baby Brother
Polly Diamond has decided that her family’s house is too small now that she and her little sister, Anna, have to share a bedroom because Mom is about to have a baby. But she is delighted when she receives a turquoise writing and spelling book. When she writes a list of possible names for her expected brother in the new book, the book writes, “You need to think of a name for me, too!” Before she does that, Polly decides to move the furniture in her bedroom to help Dad paint the walls. Then she begins to write a story about painting her (and Anna’s) room to look like the inside of an aquarium, and that’s when she discovers that her book can do more magic than just writing itself. It can make whatever she writes in it happen. When Polly plays hide-and-seek with Anna, she writes that she’s invisible. Sure enough, Anna and her father can’t seem to see her after that. Then Dad announces that he has to leave because Mom is about to have the baby. Ms. Arbul — Ms. Hairball — is supposed to babysit. Polly makes a list of “The Best Things About Ms. Hairball.” But, because Ms. Arbul’s 14-year-old niece comes instead, Polly makes “An Endless List of Annoying Things About Shaylene.” Shaylene doesn’t notice that Polly is invisible, even when Anna says she can’t play with her because of that. Polly eventually turns Anna into a banana and then writes a story about her idea of a perfect house. The writing book makes Polly’s house shake, rumble, and change so that, in moments, Polly is able to explore the perfect house’s libraries packed with innumerable boxes of books, dance studios, indoor pool jammed with pool toys, and a new room for Polly with a giant bed and huge flat-screen TV. Eventually she realizes she has to get her house back to its original state.
Because the writing book is so literal, returning the house to its initial state is not as easy a job as Polly first imagines. However, everything is finally restored — including Anna — by the time Ms. Hairball arrives to announce that the baby has been born. After the writing book reminds Polly that she has to name it, Polly decides to call her new book SPELL. Then she draws a picture of her family, including the new baby. With Anna’s help, she puts that drawing and two banners she makes on the wall in his room: WELCOME HOME TINY DIAMOND! and YOU SHINE LIKE A STAR. Now she thinks, It’s perfect. … It really is.
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book is the first in an intended series. Polly has a big imagination and a sense of fun. She is old enough to be passionate about writing, loves words that are hard to spell (one of the reasons that turquoise is her favourite colour), starting stories, and making lists. She also has a precocious interest in literary terms. While the author does a good job of developing Polly’s character, the book’s plot development is not as strong. Polly goes from writing one list or story to the next. She participates in various activities, like making pancakes, painting, playing and exploring what’s behind a “squillion” doors. She introduces readers to the concepts of utopia and world peace as well as the meaning of words like simile, alliteration, and hyperbole. She gets into so many different activities and issues during her day of waiting for the baby to arrive that her main goals and concerns seem to be forgotten in all the action and segues.
Rather than entertain and inspire budding writers, as per the publisher’s stated intention, in its hectic attempt to teach, Polly Diamond and the Magic Book threatens to overwhelm all but the strongest young readers.
Recommended with Reservations.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children’s stories.
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