Posts tagged magic

Mordant’s Wish: A magical series of events that ends with a new friendship.

Mordant’s WishMWcover

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Valerie Coursen

32 pages

Henry Hold and Company, LLC

Published 1997

Out of print


In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I am partial to stories that involve turtles. This preference would never sway me into appreciating an unworthy book, but it may persuade me to love a good book just a tiny bit more.

Valerie Coursen uses a soft, colorful palette and her illustrations are playful and loose. Her charming prose is uncomplicated; the story follows a series of actions and their consequences. Each new page brings a little more of the town into view and connects one event to the next, resulting in a heartwarming and magical ending.

Mordant (a mole) lives in a hole at the top of a hill. Staring up at the sky, he sees a cloud shaped like a turtle.

“I wish that turtle were real, thought Mordant. I wish that turtle were my friend.”

He blows on the seeds of a fluffy dandelion puff and wishes for his turtle friend. The white seeds fill the air and an incredible chain of events is set in motion.


Calum, riding by on his bike, sails through the downy seeds and thinks of snow. Then he thinks of snow cones, so he makes a stop at Velma’s Famous Snow Cones. While he’s enjoying the treat, some of Calum’s frozen delight drips onto the sidewalk forming a hat-shaped puddle. When Peanut the bird, perched above, sees the puddle she thinks of her Aunt Nat, who owns a hat that very same shape. Peanut decides to pay her aunt a visit.


Aunt Nat is overjoyed to see Peanut and begins singing a very happy song. The barber, Mr. Ricardo, hears the song and is so content humming along that he shaves a smiley face onto the back of Mr. Took’s head!

Blanche the beetle lives in the Fine Fine Antiques shop, where Mr. Took likes to shop. Blanche is depressed over the sale of her favorite buttons—“the pearl ones with the red roses painted on them”—until she spots the cheerful image on Mr. Took’s head.


Though just moments ago she’d been crying, she is so cheered by his new, daring hairdo that she decides to do something daring herself. Blanche hops onto a package headed out the door, then she hops onto a woman in a flowery dress. Quickly flicked away by the woman, she soon finds herself on a beautiful, sweet-smelling rose.


The woman wearing the flowery dress didn’t notice that she dropped her grocery list, nor did most of the people who walked right over it. It was Petunia Mae who picked it up. She liked looking for secret messages in lists and, by combining the first letters of the items on the list, this one was telling her to swim.

While on her way to the lake, Petunia Mae notices a turtle trying to cross the busy road. She doesn’t know that he tries every day but is too afraid of the cars, or that the reason he wants to cross the street is to find out who lives at the top of the nearby hill. Petunia Mae picks up the turtle, crosses the street, and gently places him on the grass at the bottom of the hill.


Mordant’s wish is about to come true, and so is the turtle’s.


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The Van Gogh Cafe: A captivating read for all ages.

The Van Gogh Cafe


Middle Reader

Ages 4 and up (Explained below)

By Cynthia Rylant

Not Illustrated

64 pages

Harcourt Brace



This is one of those rare books that is truly appropriate for almost all ages. Though there are no illustrations, it can still capture the attention of your little ones. If your child can sit for 30 minutes to be read to, you could easily get through the whole book.  A child who can read on his or her own will breeze through it. And I imagine read it again and again, as I have. I re-read it to write this review. Not because I needed to be reminded how wonderful it is but because I have tea steeping and time to kill and I can’t not read this book if it’s in my hands.

For the record, the only connection to Van Gogh is the name. The artist makes no appearances in this book.

The opening paragraph starts:

“The Van Gogh Café sits on Main Street in Flowers, Kansas, and the building it is in was once a theater, which may be the reason for its magic. And it’s true, the café is magical. All kinds of interesting things happen here.”

For instance, the theater is struck by lightning one day and the food starts cooking itself. And it does so perfectly. Marc, the owner, doesn’t immediately notice because he has been spending every moment of his day writing poems; poems which, it’s soon realized, are accurately predicting the future. There’s a visiting possum that inspires a sad, recently widowed man to open an animal shelter. When a bus full of children caught in a surprise snow storm are brought to the café, Marc’s daughter, Clara, feeds them muffins given to the café by a glamorous woman on her way to New York City. The woman only gave Marc and Clara two muffins, but, tucked away in the refrigerator, they’ve multiplied to fourteen! The exact number of children on the bus.

Each chapter perfectly melts into the next and each introduces a new piece of magic.

There’s two points to be aware of in this book. In one chapter an old man dies in the Café while sitting by the window. It’s a very sweet and lovely story and not upsetting or jarring but it may lead to a discussion about death with your little listener. In the following chapter, intruders try to capture a seagull living on the roof, which they believe to be an angel. The idea of intruders could be scary to younger children. However, since these 2 chapters are back to back, you could easily skip them without your listener ever knowing.

Having said that, let me now say this: I have always believed that opening a difficult discussion with your child is much easier to deal with when you’re discussing a fictional character than it is when these things occur in real life. See this post.


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