Cheri Marie Anthony blends reality and fantasy in her children’s picture book Magic Land.
This is a tale of two orphans, Lisa and Tina, who enjoy playing together daily and who vow never to part. The story turns tragic when Lisa is slammed in the head by a playground swing and falls into a coma. Unconscious, Lisa enters a netherworld called Magic Land, where her adventures include witnessing more tragedy.
Magic Land is home to a king and his daughter, Princess Sherria, who are served in their castle by tiny house elves. Sherria possesses the power to make flowers grow, but because she cannot control it, “Eventually her power began to consume her,” Anthony writes. Sherria looks remarkably like Lisa, and her failing health adds to the suggestion that the two are one, although the author never makes this clear.
Already heavily laden with tragic elements, the story becomes even more disturbing as Sherria dies and the king honors her dying wish to bury “every rag doll in America” with her. Illustrations by Marvin Paracuelles depict Sherria in an open casket ready to be lowered into her grave and a servant placing the dolls in another grave, unwrapped and directly into the soil. The story is left unresolved as the focus returns to Lisa, who asks, “Am I dreaming or is this real?” while readers neither discover if she will emerge from her coma nor how her friend Tina is faring.
Paracuelles’ illustrations are professional and engaging, even when they depict tragedy, but a disquieting storyline, illustrations of burial, and irresolution of the tragic plot will be upsetting to young children. Additionally, the need for a copyedit to add missing commas lends an unpolished feel to the book. Overall, this story will hold limited appeal for its target audience.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.