I buy and collect books with certain themes that I think can lead to meaningful reading and writing activities. “MAGIC” is one theme that I find fascinating with children of all ages. I particularly like the “magical” theme because by simply adding “magic” in front of any ordinary objects can potentially turn it into a compelling story. Just think… the magic pencil, the magic finger, the magic shoe… the possibilities are endless!
Why is magic such a common theme in books and is so fascinating for us?
I think Zoe Greaves (blog here)answers this question well and gives her recommendations of “magical” chapter books in English:
“It goes well beyond magic in children’s books, it is in our folk tales. It goes back into stories that people were telling for thousands of years. I think it is hardwired into us and into the landscape around us, because so many of the stories about the landscape are to do with magic and to do with giants and fairies. In fact, up until relatively recently – the 19th century – people really believed in these things.”
The first “MAGICAL” story that I bought for Kai is one popular series from Japan, translated into Chinese. I am so engrossed in this story that I eventually bought the entire series. All of my recommendations are so loved by me and my children because the illustrations are comical, story plot is outrageous and sometimes disastrous, but normalcy is always restored in the end.
RECOMMENDATION #1 (Author: 成田雅子)
Original Title: ふしぎなあおいバケツ
Chinese Titles / English translation (unofficial) 神奇的蓝色水桶 “The Magical Bucket”
In 神奇的蓝色水桶，Sally has a magical bucket that keeps getting bigger. She then dives into the bucket and goes on an adventure with her friends. Apart from this story, there are many other titles in the series and you can find them here if you are located in Singapore:
RECOMMENDATION #2 (Author: 宮西達也)
Original Titles: 1. ふしぎなかサやさん 2. ふしぎなキャンディーやさん 3. ふしぎなタネやさん
Chinese Titles/ English translation (unofficial): 1. 超级神奇雨伞铺 “The Magical Umbrella Store” 2. 級神奇糖果店 “The Magical Candy Store” 3. 级神奇种子店. “The Magical Seeds Store”
- In 超神奇雨伞铺 the adventure begins when Piggy buys umbrellas with special patterns and when he opens them up, donuts, sushi, pudding and fish start raining from the sky. When he encounters the big bad wolf, he knows exactly know what to do with his umbrellas to help him escape.
2. In 神奇糖果店 Piggy goes to a candy store and tries out different candies that give him superpowers! The candy once again keeps Piggy safe from the Big Bad Wolf.
3. In 神奇种子点 plants seeds that grow into trees of all kinds! When the Big Bad Wolf appears, Piggy uses his seeds to trick the wolf.
RECOMMENDATION #3 (Author: 宫西达)
Japanese Titles： 1. ヘンテコはみがきこ 2. ヘンテコクレヨン 3. ヘンテコシャンプ
Chinese Titles / English translation (unofficial): 1. 神奇牙膏 “The Magical Toothpaste” 2. 神奇蜡笔 “The Magical Crayon” 3. 神奇洗发水. “The Magical Shampoo”
- In 神奇牙膏 a boy comes across an apple -flavoured toothpaste that is invented by a superhero. After using it, the boy turns into an apple when he brushes his teeth with it. Other children also find strange things happening with toothpastes of various flavours.
2. In 神奇蜡笔, the superhero’s new invention, the magical crayons transform the children into whatever objects they draw. When the Superhero accidentally draws himself into a hideous flower, he needs to invent something that would transform him and the children back into their normal selves.
3. In 神奇洗发水，a magical shampoo turns the children into bizarre creatures. What will it take restore peace?
Writing Activity 1
Writing is a craft, and children sometimes need to be inspired to write. As Kai’s Chinese is getting stronger, I am starting to encourage him to write stories that are modelled after quality texts that we have been reading. The book 神奇洗发水 has predictable and repetitive parts that I thought would help Kai write his own version of the story!
In the classroom, picture books (parts or whole) are sometimes used as “mentor texts” for writers so students can improve their sentence fluency, word choice and writing conventions.
At home, different stories can also be used to encourage children to model its writing! Kai’s finished story is a creative adaptation of the 神奇洗发水.
I created a template here in case anyone wants to give this a try.
Writing Activity 2
The story 超级神奇雨伞铺 is also a great mentor text which I used to inspire Kai to write. It has the sentence 小猪一打开雨伞，—————— 从天而降。不过，当我一收起雨伞，————不见了which I thought would be fun to write.
I created a template as well for any child would might be interested to write their own version:
Writing Activity 3
Just like the other stories 神奇蓝色水桶 has predictable and repetitive parts that helped Kai to write his story. I picked the phrase 越变越大 which repeats throughout the story for Kai to model. Since Kai wanted to start with English, I showed him the equivalent phrase “became bigger and bigger”. I thought it was perfect that his story is bilingual!
- Link to purchase here
Update October 2021
I have added 2 more magical stories since writing this post!
- 糖果龙 (link to purchase here)
- 彩色牛奶 (link to purchase here)
And more recently, I discovered the translated book 神奇魔法床 “The Magic Bed” in my school library. I love that the story tells of George who rides his newly bought old bed on magical adventures and sees tigers, pirates, and witches! It is a bonus that the book is Luka compatible too!
And this wraps up our magical series and writing activities!
What are some of your favorite “magical” books in Chinese, English or in other languages?