Allison's Book Bag

California the Magic Island by Doug Hansen

Posted on: May 11, 2016

California the Magic Island by Doug Hansen will appeal to readers of all ages. Part history and part myth, the structure hails from Arabian Nights in being a series of interconnecting short stories that cover a diversity of subjects. As for the illustrations, the vibrant poster like pictures possess a bold classical feel which well suit the overall larger-than-life style of California the Magic Island.

Hansen used a Spanish romantic adventure novel from five centuries ago about a Queen Calafia and her magical island named California, where “black-skinned Amazon women, ferocious griffins, and abundance of gold” surrounded her, to establish the basic elements of California the Magic Island. Then inspired by Arabian Nights, Hansen added the creative twist of having animals tell stories to save their home state from an angry queen. In blending these two pieces of literature, Hansen created an imaginative story that readers will return to again and again. With twenty-six adventures, ranging in length from 200 to 400 words, there’s a lot to absorb. One is unlikely to appreciate the richness of each and every story upon the first read. Whether to reread the story of the wild horses of Death Valley who will not be mastered by humans or a desolate and savage land, or to reread the story of a Gila monster forced to leave his burrow when Californians wanted running water but instead got a runaway river, or to reread the story of a ground squirrel with underground gardens, readers will want to rediscover a forgotten tale or revisit a favorite.

There are other merits to Hansen’s book too. Aside from the aforementioned stories are the magnificent illustrations. The first half consist of fantastical sequences of Calafia’s California, while the latter half incorporates realistic depictions of architecture, vehicles, animals, and people of America’s real California. Soaking up the atmosphere of the illustrations took me as much time as appreciating the stories did. But there’s still more to enjoy. Ten back pages are dedicated to providing information about the origin of the Queen Califia legend, additional details about each of the animals and the stories they narrate, and a note about the artist.

My complaints about California the Magic Island are minor. One, although I realize the stories were probably kept short to meet the attention spans of modern audiences, I think they could have run longer in length. The tales in Arabian Nights are well over double the size, running closer to 1000 words. Second, even though increasing the size of the print would make for a bigger book, I think the increased friendliness of a larger size would have been worth it.

California the Magic Island should appeal to readers everywhere. The introduction to this golden state’s history will be admired, as will the tribute to fantasy and myth. Hansen has created a treasure. Readers can only hope more gems will follow.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

4 Responses to "California the Magic Island by Doug Hansen"

Dear Allison: I thank you for your encouraging review of California, the Magic Island. The great thing about a picture book is we can go back again and again and revisit our favorite pictures or stories and look for the treasures we missed the first time. That’s what I loved to do as a child and I hope readers will do so with the Magic Island. For more about my other two California-centric children’s books, check out Sincerely, Doug Hansen

California the Magic Island is the type of book I enjoyed reading as a child. It’s full of interesting details and lavish illustrations. I appreciated the opportunity to read and review it! All the best with your writing career.

I’m so with you on bigger print. My eyes cannot read small print anymore and that’s wearing my glasses.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Struggling readers appreciate bigger print. And as avid reader as I am, the older I get, the more I appreciate a generous print size.

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