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On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

by Ryann Shearer (2019-05-27)


Rare is the picture book that grabs as immediately as On a Magical Do-Nothing Day. On the cover, a bespectacled child of indeterminate gender, wearing a neon-orange coat, swings through the air on a tree branch, pulling readers along on a wondrous journey.

Award-winning Italian author-illustrator Beatrice Alemagna tells the story of a child’s transformative day, reminiscent of Aaron Becker’s Journey series. But while Becker’s bored young hero escapes into a fantastical world of imaginary creations, Alemagna’s narrator explores the woods outside a cabin on a rainy day, eventually seeing the world in a new light.

While Mom writes at her computer, the child grows bored with a video game. The dreary day gets even worse when the narrator goes outside and accidentally drops the game into a pond. Alemagna’s straightforward prose conveys the kid’s misery, while each illustration offers unexpected delights full of texture, swirls and whirls, showing, for instance, the hero’s legs turning into leaden tree trunks. Meanwhile, the orange splash of raincoat shines like a flashlight from scenes of dark greens and grays.

Soon, however, the child begins to notice a world of luminous natural delights, like snails with antennae “as soft as Jell-O” and how digging into the mud reveals “a thousand seeds and pellets, kernels, grains, roots and berries.” Alemagna’s sense of color, design and artistry is stunning as she manages to convey the delights of the outdoors without being preachy or predictable.

“I felt that there was something special close by. That I was surrounded,” the narrator says. Readers of On a Magical Do-Nothing Day will indeed be surrounded by something special: a masterpiece of narration and art.

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