cover image Magic: Once upon a Faraway Land

Magic: Once upon a Faraway Land

Mirelle Ortega. Cameron Kids, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-951-83657-3

“Let me tell you about the place I’m from,” writes debut author-illustrator Ortega, and from this book’s very first image, the narrator’s sun-soaked homeland, seen from a bird’s-eye view, is “brimming with magia.” Palm fronds of green and olive wave above slopes of rich red land, “a place where rain kisses the earth and wild things flourish. And people turn wilderness into harvest.” There, her abuelo “turned dirt into a sea of golden pineapples, glimmering under the warm Mexican sun.... And my abuelita taught me to string words together to make up stories.” Ortega’s promising setup turns into a broad recounting of sentiments occurring “in my faraway land”: “Even in the darkest moments, the spark of magic shines through.” Though intricately patterned images suggest accompanying events, the lack of narrative structure results in an elusive, personal-feeling portrait of one speaker’s maturation. An author’s note concludes. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)