Edwina Wyatt writes as beautifully and with as much care for PaperbarkWords about her new children’s novel, The Magic of Magnolia Moon, as she does in her books. The Magnolia Moon trilogy (Walker Books Australia) is shaping up to be an exquisite and important body of work for children.
Edwina Wyatt writes about The Magic of Magnolia Moon:
The Magic of Magnolia Moon is the second instalment in the Magnolia Moon Trilogy Following on from The Secrets of Magnolia Moon (CBCA Honour Book 2020), Magnolia is now ten years old, living in Crocus Cottage with her family in the town of Thistledown. She is re-joined by the same cast of friends including her oldest friend, the moon, who whispers to her every night. However, there are some new additions: a red robin, Hetty, who makes a home in Magnolia’s feather-filled hair. And a ticking, tutting grandfather clock that nags her for being late to add to the fuss made by her creaking, groaning staircase.
As a way to navigate the world around her, Magnolia uses everyday magic to make sense and meaning out of life’s challenges. For Magnolia, magic is everywhere. Not the ordinary sorts of magic, but the quiet, rarer kinds that are easily missed. Like Dog Magic: when the dog outside the fruit shop looks you right in the eye. Or Potato Magic, when you eat a hot buttery potato after a very bad day, and all your problems melt away. Magnolia is enchanted by the most ordinary things. Like puddles and ponds. Hats and umbrellas. Pots of paint and bowls of soup. She finds magic in bubbles, peach pies, wild herbs and the ink from a pen. And by hanging upside down in the Wishing Tree on sticky purple evenings when the frogs are all full of song.
But some people do not understand Magnolia’s way of thinking, they do not listen and miss the magic that is right before their eyes. Sometimes Magnolia’s magic works in surprising, unintended ways, but sometimes she makes mistakes and it does not work at all. Like when the most magical boy that she knows loses his smile and his secret powers through his grief over his parents’ divorce. And when her best friend, Imogen May, gets a new best friend. Or when the bully at school says that magic is not real and is just for babies. Magnolia is forced to question whether she really believes in magic, or whether she, too, should give up on it. Ultimately, Magnolia discovers that Real Magic is the stuff you cannot see; “Like true love and kindness. Forgiveness, bravery and second chances.”
Continuing on with the episodic structure set up in the first book, each chapter is a little vignette and presents a new type of magic all within a gently overarching narrative with two subplots. Perfect for newly independent readers aged 7+ ready for a chapter book, or as a read-aloud for younger children.The book addresses themes of family, belonging, change, identity and friendship. As with The Secrets, I wanted Magnolia to have a new favourite book which informed her inner life and some of the themes. So just as she was captivated by the drama and high stakes of the Greek myths in the first book, in The Magic, Magnolia is inspired by her book of fairytales and she tries to make real-life connections with the stories she reads.
My favourite illustration by the wonderful Katherine Quinn is perhaps where we see Magnolia feeling as though she is lost in the woods with the Big Bad Wolf when she is being taunted by the school bully. I also love the illustrations from the midnight feast that goes wrong in the chapter Midnight Magic.
Whilst the books are not autobiographical, each book addresses some pressing question that is of interest to me at the time. For example, when I was writing The Secrets I was interested in change and what it meant, as I was experiencing a lot of change. In The Magic, I wanted to know if it was really possible to have a magical, enchanted life full of beauty and surprise in a world full of so much suffering, pain and instability. And in the third which is set to arrive in October 2022, I was interested in fear, anxiety and bravery. Also, in money and the true meaning of wealth and happiness. Magnolia asks the question, “Who am I?” when the world around her is telling her stories of who she is that do not ring true. Whilst these can all be read separately as stand-alone books, I look forward to them being able to be enjoyed as a collection.
The challenge for me with these books has been striking the balance between light and shade. Trying to keep it very dreamy, naïve and simple, without being simplistic. I wanted the books to cover big and complex themes but provide the reader with enough space to wade as shallow or deeply as they choose. I wanted to keep the language clear and unpretentious but also let myself play with words and not shy away from using odd metaphors and abstract ideas like the way time is represented. In other words, I didn’t want to be whimsical at the expense of truth. But did not want to let truth get in the way of beauty and innocence.
It has been so wonderful revisiting Magnolia’s world. It has certainly helped me to find a little magic – to stay open and curious to all possibilities. Even if it means looking twice or checking in the dark places under the table when it seems to be hiding.