Muck & Magic by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

Muck & Magic by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill. Candlewick, 2020. 9781536212884

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? This short novel reads like a short story. Bonny is a teen who is a cycling fanatic. One day, her ride takes her past a farm where horses graze. She becomes enchanted by the friendly horses who come to check her out, and comes back again and again. She feeds them carrots and names them, always wondering about the woman she sees at the top of the hill near the barn. Eventually, the woman, Lizzie, invites Bonnie to help her out for pay, by mucking out the horse stalls and helping her exercise the horses. As they come to know one another, Bonny also becomes a model for Lizzie’s sculptures, and a willing student of drawing and sculping as well. When Lizzie dies, Bonny is gifted Lizzie’s model for a sculpture of herself sitting on a horse. At the end, the reader learns that Bonny is writing the account later in her life as an accomplished sculptor.

This is a quiet short story (60 p.) with profuse mixed media art, including sketches and letters. The art adds to the contemplative nature of Bonny’s experience, as she changes, from a teen who is sure she will become a renowned cyclist to a mature person whose life trajectory has been changed by an older mentor. Her parents are supportive in the background, but her friendship with Lizzie changes her life. This story will appeal to readers who enjoy quiet stories where the action is about inner growth. The charming sketches of horses and bicycles, and the painterly vistas of the farm may help hi/low readers enjoy the story.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  For ages 10-14, fans of Morpurgo and those who enjoy quiet country settings and books about horses or art.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: March 19, 2021

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