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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Heena Baek
Age Range: 6-8
This poignant story, with a mix of realism and fantasy, is narrated by Tong Tong, a lonely child, whose life is changed when he buys a bag of magic candies. The first candy he tries is brightly coloured and has a familiar pattern that looks just like the family sofa. As Tong Tong sucks the candy, he suddenly hears a voice emanating from the sofa telling him where the missing remote control is. A second candy gives a voice to his dog who Tong Tong believed didn’t like him. It turns out these voices have a lot to say but is Tong Tong ready to hear them?
At turns funny, quirky, and heartfelt, this imaginative picture book from the 2020 winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Korean author, and artist Heena Baek, translated by Sophie Bowman, will take readers on Tong Tong’s journey of discovery. With the help of the magic candies, he acquires a sense of belonging and goes from being lonely and afraid to discovering his inner strength.
The story weaves between hilarity and pathos: the conversation with the sofa, who issues a request to Tong Tong to ask his dad to break less wind when he’s sitting on it as the smell is unpleasant will have readers giggling. While the conversation with his grandmother from beyond the grave, who tells him not to worry about her because she is having so much fun, is heartfelt.
Magic Candies can be read on many levels. The clever design and graphics used for the text, particularly the page of Tong Tong’s dad’s endless nagging, which fills the whole page in closely printed capital letters, is used for emphasis and gives the impression that the admonitions are being shouted out. However, another candy lets Tong Tong hear the love behind them when a voice inside his father’s head keeps repeating “I LOVE YOU.” The distinct and unique artwork reflects the innovative way in which Baek meticulously builds an entire miniature world of sculpted figurines, miniature furniture, and scenery by using a variety of different media including drawing, painting, collage, photographing, sewing, baking. The 3D collages are then lit to enhance them further before she photographs each individual image or scene. This slow craft process is inspired by the animation techniques that she trained in before publishing her first children’s picture book in 2004.
Magic Candies is an incredibly sophisticated work of art as well as an unusual, funny, and moving story making it a winning combination.
The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) have produced a very useful guide to Magic Candies https://alma.se/contentassets/12bcb47c93bf4acb83e2c3a7e0b59441/reading-guide-magic-candies.pdf