Incredible Magic of Being

Incredible Magic of Being

Some might say Julian is sheltered. But he lives large, and his eternal optimism allows him to see infinite possibilities wherever he looks.

Despite his optimism, he is anxious about his stressed family falling apart. Even his ability to "uni-sense" what's happening with his sister is gone. If he can make his family focus on the magic in the universe, surely they'll appreciate life again. Now that they are moving from Washington, DC, to rural Maine, Julian can use his beloved telescope without any light pollution. He can discover a comet, name it for himself, and show his family how they're all truly connected.

As Julian searches the night sky, he encounters a force that may drive his plan apart. His neighbor, Mr. X, could bring an end to his parents' dream of opening their B&B. Could one negative force unravel everything? An avid student of science, Julian understands that there is much about the universe that we don't yet know. Who is to say what's possible and what's not?--from the publisher

256 pages 978-1338148510 Ages 8-12

Keyword: Magical realism


Nine year old Julian and his teenage sister Pookie move from the city to run a bed and breakfast by a lake in Maine with their mother and her wife, Joan. Julian, who is a quirky kid with unexplained health concerns that require regular use of antibiotics, is so afraid of drowning that he wears a life jacket everywhere.

When a lawyer representing their neighbor, Mr. X, tells them that they will have to take down the addition they are building for the B&B because it is blocking Mr. X's view and decreasing his property values, the family is very concerned that they won't have the financial stability to remain. Julian befriends the crotchety man who can't get over the death of his wife, Julia, but who takes a grudging liking to Julian's impulsive but well meaning ways. The two even make a plot together to get a dog, but Mr. X puts the stipulation in place that Julian must learn to swim. Can Julian use his abilities to sense things about people and to appreciate "the incredible magic of being" to bring his family and Mr. X. around to his view of the world?

Strengths: This has a very supportive if somewhat dysfunctional family (the mother stopped being an ob/gyn because a baby in her care died; Pookie is obsessed by the idea of her sperm donor father) that tries to do the right things. There is diversity with the two mom figures, as well as Julian, who has Tetralogy of Fallot syndrome and seems suspiciously close to the autism spectrum, although he is never identified. The inclusion of an older adult assuming a reluctant grandparent role is interesting as well, and the Maine setting is a nice touch.

Weaknesses: This is one of those stories where nothing really happens. It's similar to books like Wonder or Because of Mr. Terupt, but I honestly can't think of any students to whom I would hand this. Julian is a bit young and naive, and there are inclusions of vast amounts of scientific facts that teachers will adore and students will not. The exception: if a teacher reads this aloud to a class and is passionate about the book, all of those students will adore it. There's a lot to be said about a teacher who gets really excited about a book and wants to share it. Unfortunately, I get very passionate about teenage spies, football fiction, and radioactive hamsters because those are a LOT easier to recommend. 
What I really think: I will most likely not purchase, although the flaming marshmallow on the cover would lead children to pick up the book.
Recommended by:  Karen Yingling, Library specialist, Ohio USA
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