The Mag­i­cal Imperfect

Chris Baron, Trisha Pre­vite (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – August 29, 2021

It is 1989, and the Giants are in the World Series. A series of small earth­quakes puts San Fran­cis­co on edge, and a young boy and girl form an unlike­ly friendship.

Etan’s words leave him the day his moth­er leaves his fam­i­ly. He does not know why his words stopped, and no one can seem to help him get them back — not his grand­fa­ther, not his dad, and not his friends.

Malia used to go to school, but now she does not leave the house due to a skin con­di­tion. The oth­er kids at school call her Crea­ture.” When Etan is sent on an errand by his neigh­bor to deliv­er some­thing to her house, he meets Malia. They become friends, spend­ing time in the red­wood for­est behind Malia’s house, shar­ing sto­ries and aspi­ra­tions. Malia wants to be a singer and Etan wants to have his moth­er back, his fam­i­ly repaired, and the Giants to win the World Series.

As Etan encour­ages Malia to be the singer she wants to be, Etan’s dad drifts away from him and his grand­fa­ther. Etan isn’t sure how to nav­i­gate this new nor­mal, with his dad frus­trat­ed at Judaism and his Mom away from home. He seeks com­fort and guid­ance from his grand­fa­ther, who shares with him not only the sto­ry of his own immi­gra­tion to Amer­i­ca through Angel Island, but also the mag­i­cal prop­er­ties from a box that has been in the fam­i­ly for gen­er­a­tions. It con­tains mud from his Euro­pean home­town and from the Dead Sea, and it was used to cre­ate a Golem. His grand­fa­ther shares the sto­ry of the Golem and the pro­tec­tion it pro­vid­ed to the Jew­ish peo­ple in many ways long ago. The height of the sto­ry­telling coin­cides with the Loma Pri­eta earth­quake, which occurs while Malia and Etan are at Malia’s first pub­lic performance.

This beau­ti­ful book is writ­ten in the form of a poem. The lan­guage is inno­v­a­tive yet acces­si­ble, and the author makes a note of includ­ing infor­ma­tion about Angel Island, the Ellis Island of the West.” It’s a won­der­ful sto­ry with the state of Cal­i­for­nia and Etan’s com­mu­ni­ty depict­ed as active char­ac­ters and par­tic­i­pants. It paints a beau­ti­ful pic­ture of inter­twined fam­i­lies, of a com­mu­ni­ty dis­cov­er­ing its strengths, immi­gra­tion across gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans, and the unlike­ly friend­ship between two kids try­ing to find their place in the world.

Jes­si­ca Sender is an aca­d­e­m­ic librar­i­an at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in pub­lic and aca­d­e­m­ic libraries, and in her free time enjoys run­ning, bik­ing, real­i­ty TV, and explor­ing Michigan. 

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