About the Book:
Title: Magic Candies
Author: Heena Baek
Translator: Sophie Bowman
Pub. Date: September 1, 2021
Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for Magic Candies published by Amazon Crossing Kids which aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
A young boy named Tong Tong plays marbles alone in the park while his dog watches. Depressed, Tong Tong goes to a shop to buy new marbles. Instead he finds hard candies that look like his round toy. As soon as Tong Tong puts one in his mouth, the magic begins, for the candies give him the ability to hear things such as the sofa talking. Tong Tong not only finds the missing remote but also that his dad has a stinky habit that the sofa does not like. Once the candy dissolves, the sofa is silent. Tong Tong wonders what will happen if he eats another?
Guess who starts talking? Yup! Tong Tong’s dog, Marbles who gives him important information. This page spread is just precious because while I wouldn’t want Bella to talk all the time, I love that Marbles can verbally communicate his feelings.
When his dad comes home, Tong Tong only hears questions and commands which appear in the form of words and take up the space of an entire page. Angered by his dad’s barks, he puts a spotty candy in his mouth and then hears three words over, I love you, over and over again. Perhaps, these magic candies tell the honest truth?
Not long after Tong Tong puts a pink candy in his mouth and blows a bubble, he hears his decreased Grandma’s voice and discovers she is doing well. I love this page spread which shows his range of emotions from shocked to determined.
With the last candy, the only word uttered was bye. This page spread is gorgeous because Baek cleverly blends in the word with the falling leaves. As Tong Tong walks through the park, he sees another boy in the distance. Since the candy did not produce sound, Tong Tong realizes that maybe, he should do the talking and asks the boy “Do you want to play with me?”
Always eager to share books with students, I read aloud Magic Candies to a class of third graders yesterday. I was blown away by their observations. Here are some of their thoughts regarding the lesson.
- “The boy got the magic candies to learn how others were feeling.”
- “The shopkeeper knew Tong Tong needed help and sold him the candies.”
- “The candies gave him the courage to make friends.”
- “At the beginning, Tong Tong was lonely but the candies made him realize he was not alone.”
The last statement really resonated with me. Magic Candies is a story of hope, for with each candy, Tong Tong realizes he is not alone. His dog, father, and grandma are there with him. The photographed clay molds make the story come alive because readers see the transformation of Tong Tong from lonely to loved. What I loved the most is the back endpages which show the effect of Tong Tong’s brave actions- he and another boy are playing together in the park. Baek does a magnificent job of bringing the story full circle; at the beginning, Tong Tong was shooting marbles by himself and now he is riding with a friend. I highly recommend Magic Candies because the story will promote engaging discussion no matter what the age!
Praise for Magic Candies!
★“Show-stopping spreads by Baek, similar to art by Red Nose Studio, feature molded, emotive figures in meticulously constructed scenery with miniature furniture, photographed under dramatic lighting—an effect startlingly close to animation. It’s a fully realized world that considers discerning meaning and making friends, while offering artwork that lingers in the memory.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective…depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder. An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Deeply touching, funny, and incredibly odd, this is the kind of picture book that gets you excited about picture books all over again…Magic Candies is so remarkable…a book that is both about giving voice to the voiceless and finding your own.” —Betsy Bird, School Library Journal
About the Author/Illustrator:
Heena Baek is an acclaimed picture book author and illustrator from South Korea. She won the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, a huge international award honoring the body of work of children’s book creators. She studied educational technology at Ewha Womans University and animation at the California Institute of the Arts. Utilizing her diverse animation production experience, Heena creates powerful and interesting picture books, often sculpting characters and building sets. She is the author and illustrator of a number of picture books, many of which have been translated and have received awards from South Korea and internationally. Follow her on Twitter @heenastory and on Instagram: @baekheena
About the Translator:
Sophie Bowman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, studying Korean literature. She was awarded the ICF Literature Translation Fellowship at Ewha Womans University. In 2015, she won the Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award grand prize for poetry with her translations of Jin Eun-young and co-translated Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories. Follow her on Twitter @SophieOrbital.