Expected publication: October 18th 2016 by HarperCollins
For three ten-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves. When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library, and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.
(And yes, T did give me a weird look when I did that - hah.)
But such was the case with the gorgeous, all-encompassing Like Magic, by Elaine Vickers. In her debut novel, Vickers shares the fears and thoughts of three young girls, who are all at certain crossroads in their lives.
Grace is recovering from her sole friend moving away, while Malia is afraid that a new arrival in the family will leave her as an afterthought. Jada is angry about leaving New York City for Utah; she’s convinced their new life is taking them away from the possibility of reuniting with her mother.
As the girls attempt to deal with these new realities, Vickers is careful to show each of them reaching out and spending them in the one place that they all feel comfortable: the library.
Though it’s never overtly stated, the fact that these girls converge at the library individually to find solace, information and even safe haven, is a great reminder by Vickers on the difference that a safe space can have in the lives of young people.
The importance of that safe space is only further emphasized by Hazel, a kind-hearted librarian who seems to instinctively know how to reach out to the three girls. Her decision to share a treasure box between the three girls is a reminder that young people often need something to center them (and make them feel special!) in transitional times, and it’s also a lovely way to nudge the girls into sharing a bit of themselves with one another.
While the interwoven storylines forms a larger and beautiful overall story about friendship and interpersonal connections, Vickers also has significant strengths and impact with her individual storylines.
Each character undergoes day-to-day challenges that will feel familiar to young readers – e.g. Grace suffers from anxiety, and has challenges talking to strangers – and Vickers does a superb job of showing the wrong way and the right way to deal with each of these challenges, and how each girl learns from their mistakes and achievements. It’s very easy to minimize or overstate some of the challenges that the young women experience, but Vickers toes that line beautifully.
Though I felt the most sympathetic to Grace's storyline - I too was a very shy young person, who hated to talk - I actually admire Jada's storyline the most. She's angry about having to relocate, and Vickers does an amazing job of showing just what it means to be a young person with limited options on where you get to live and get to go, and what it takes for her to adjust, find her space and be okay.
All in all, the book is a beautiful testament to relationships and coming to terms with your own strengths and weaknesses.
Through the guidance of a warm-hearted librarian, Grace, Malia and Jada not only overcome their personal fears, but also learn that there is strength in sharing their individual talents and gifts with the world.
This is a love letter to being young, making friends – especially a diverse group of friends - and having the wisdom and genuine love of one’s elders, to help one learn from mistakes and work toward the future.
This is also a love letter to librarians and the beauty of the library, which is something I can absolutely get behind. Highly, highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
Elaine Vickers lives with her husband and three kids in Southern Utah, where she writes books and teaches college chemistry. Visit her at www.elainevickers.comfor book recommendations, science activities, and ideas for starting your own backyard book club.