Magic Candies

Amazon Crossing. Sept. 2021. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781542029599.
K-Gr 3–When a lonely boy, Tong Tong, goes to the store to add to his marble collection he ends up with some marvelous hard candies instead that enable him to hear some of the hidden voices in the people, animals, and inanimate objects around him. A plaid-patterned candy channels the voice of the long-suffering couch, where the remote is jammed; the pink gum ball brings wistful Tong Tong, cued as Asian, the consoling voice of his dead grandmother; the black-and-white candy lets him converse with his dog; and the prickled candy lets him hear the love and care beneath his hectoring father’s endless commands. Ultimately the magic candies lead Tong Tong to make friendly overtures to another lonely boy while the falling autumn leaves whisper goodbye. Baek’s sweet and funny original story is exquisitely illustrated in mixed media including detailed sets, digital backgrounds, and sculpted figurines. Tong Tong is a figurine dressed in jeans and a stripy knit sweater, with teeth that are growing in crookedly, shiny black hair, and an amazing range of facial expressions; readers do not have to rely on the text to know what he is thinking. Baek delicately balances humor with poignancy to avoid oversentimentalizing this appealing story.
VERDICT Complemented by gorgeous illustrations, this is a must-have for any children’s collection.

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