The class book review: Life is Magic, by Meg McLaren
Title: Life is Magic
Author and illustrator: Meg McLaren
Publisher: Andersen Press
Monsieur Lapin is on the hunt for a new assistant. Houdini the rabbit is the perfect choice: he loves magic and is a good sport. However, life in a magic show can be tricky.
The illustrations in the book are glorious, with lots of mischievous bunnies. The humorous pictures allowed me to think instinctively about how to further children’s knowledge and to promote higher-order thinking. There is a lot of onomatopoeia in the text, which the children loved joining in with. The great lettering on the pages stood out for me and for the children, with children wanting to find out what the words said.
We discussed which rabbit would make a good assistant, and why the magician wouldn’t choose some of the rabbits. Having the class debate what qualities we look for in someone who can help us was interesting. Children linked this to our class and to school rules. Working as a team is a huge part of the classroom structure and this book allowed us to talk about working together and what skills we need. The children looked for sensible qualities in the bunnies, with one child saying, “That one is looking at the magician. He would be a good assistant, because he will listen.”
The illustrations in this book are key, because the narrative is simple. Make sure you take advantage of the glorious artwork for inferential questioning.
Overall, this is a very well thought-out book, with simple but stunning illustrations. I hope teachers use the book to its full potential, as it could bring out lots of creativity in the children. My class are extremely excited to be making their own magic tricks, which will give their writing a real purpose.
Our next creative topic will be looking at toys from the past, which I have struggled to link to English. Not any more! This book could be linked to all areas of the curriculum. This 19th-century magic-show book will be a great hook for the children, and will allow us to make magic tricks and follow instructions. A secret cover beneath the front cover also allows you to perform your own magic trick.
Vicky Cooper is Year 1 teacher at Hollin Primary School.
The majority of the children gave the book a thumbs up. They enjoyed looking closely at the bunnies on each page, and spotting the mischievous ones. “I wouldn’t choose that bunny as my assistant because he is eating all the food,” declared Lacie.
“That bunny is being too lazy,” said Ricco.
“Those bunnies are fighting over the hoop, but there are two so they don’t need to – they can just share,” Holly bellowed.
This got the children talking about rules and how to behave. They loved the bunny-teamwork acronym: EARS. “They have rules just like us,” said Lilly.
The children used some great vocabulary when describing the bunnies. Holly said: “That bunny looks miserable.”
The children snorted loudly when Houdini turned the magician into a rabbit. And all the children loved joining in with the magic word and used great expression. This led to children thinking of other magic words they knew. “Abracadabra” and “hocus pocus” were popular.
The children also picked up on unfamiliar vocabulary and wanted to know the meanings of the words. “What does permanent mean?” said Millie. “So it’s like for ever?”
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