Some Kind of Magic.
July 17, 2014 § 5 Comments
I won’t know whether it is officially any good until Booklist or School Library Journal prints their approval or disappointment.
I like it. But I’ll admit, I’ve taken some risks with this one, like having five point of view characters.
As if that isn’t enough, four tell their stories in first person, but Cody, who is counting down to his birthday, “Know what day it is? It’s seven minus seven!” is handled in limited third. I didn’t want him to be as self-conscious as first person demands.
At least I’m being consistent about having everyone tell their story in past tense, I thought. Then one of the characters, Justin refused. Life breathes on his neck. Hey, the moment is all he can deal with!
Each time Justin takes a turn the story pops into present.
“Some Kind of Magic” is the sixth and final book in a series that started with “Crossing Jordan.” Published in 2000 it was my first book to ever make the jump from manuscript-in-a-drawer to hard cover.
While I have lived fourteen years my characters have aged only three.
In fiction I control time. I can slow it down, speed it up; even skip over the boring parts.
I like that.
There is plenty of magic in novels for young readers, and by that I mean Magic, but the magic in this book is definitely lower case.
As a writer of realistic fiction I tell a story that celebrates the magic each of us calls on to get by, the magic of luck and belief.
In this case the everyday magic comes from a fedora found at the back of a closet shelf by about-to-turn-seven Cody as he helps his mom sort things for Goodwill:
The stool wobbled as he pushed up on his toes and reached way…way…way back. He was ready to give up when his fingers brushed against something velvety.
It made a shhhh sound as he inched it across the shelf. When he got it to the edge, a gray curve stuck out like a dirty sliver of moon. “Hey, are you a hat?” He pulled it down. “Wow,” he breathed.
The hat was the same browny gray as Elvis, his kindergarten class’s pet gerbil. It felt the same too. Except it didn’t shiver when he held it.
He plopped it on his head and—whoosh—the world disappeared.
While blinded by the hat Cody is able to do things he can’t do without it—like put a basketball through the hoop and find an abandoned building in the woods, the perfect place to fix up and hang out–as long as no one tells.
Cody knows the hat is magic. It talks to him. It sends him magic tingles.
His brother, Ben, tells him that at almost seven, he should know better.
“Is seven years old when you forget magic is real?” Cody asks, blinking up at him.
After explaining that you don’t forget–you realize–Ben tells Cody:
“It’s kind of a good thing that magic is fake. Even in stories it’s only nice at first. It always messes up the person who has it.”
“Nuh-uh!” Cody protested. “Not Cinderella! Cinderella married the prince!”
“And they lived boringly ever after.”
Nana Grace, the wise African-American grandmother who is perhaps my favorite character in the Neighborhood series, is lenient when pressed to say how she feels about the disputed magic hat.
“Doesn’t matter what I believe. Question is, what does Cody Floyd believe? Everybody needs some kind of magic to get ’em through.”
Which causes her granddaughter, Jemmie, to think about the magic hat each of her friends wears, like Leroy, the motor-mouthed street ball king:
I thought about Leroy and his rapping. Maybe talking big was Leroy’s magic hat—talking big and jamming the ball through the hoop. With no dad at home, his mom called him “the man of the house.” He had a lot on his shoulders.
Each of the kids facing the long boring summer before life changes and the kids (except for Cody) start high school has some kind of magic that gets them through.
Justin has his music, Ben his plans of seeing the world as soon as he gets a license and a car, Jemmie and Cass run like the wind—nobody can beat them!
I have a magic hat too.
Mine allows me to walk through a door non writers may daydream their way through for brief moments.
I walk through that door and spend months and years in the world of, what if?
I’ve left the neighborhood-although I know the story will go on without me. Characters live and breathe somewhere right at the edge of magic–and these kids: Ben and Cody, Justin, Jemmie and Cass are so vivid I know they don’t depend on me for their existence.
I am now making regular forays into a place where the other end of life is playing out, a retirement community in which true love is about to make a late, but welcome appearance.
Everyone has a magic hat. Mine is writing books. It is a good magic hat–even if Booklist and SLJ nail me for using all those narrators.
Note: If you want to hear an excerpt from the recorded version of Crossing Jordan, click here.
Slowdance will take a rest next week. I’ll be hanging out with my grandson and probably looking at spiders.
Tagged: Adrian Fogelin, Adrian Fogelin Blog, Adrian Fogelin's Blog, Anna Casey's Place in the World, Ben Floyd, Cass Bodine, Children's Book Authors, Cody Floyd, Crossing Jordan, Jemmie Lewis, Justin Riggs, My Brother's Hero, Peachtree Publishers, The Big Nothing, The Neighborhood Series, The Sorta Sisters