Eleven-year-old Tulsi lives and works in a travelling Australian circus with her mum and dad. Tulsi’s mum Merry can do “big magic” (actual magic, not tricks) but she refuses to teach Tulsi yet. In desperation to save the failing circus, Merry attempts a disappearing spell – and doesn’t come back. Can Tulsi harness the magic in her blood to find her mother… before time runs out?
Big Magic is a nice little middle grade read and marks the author’s first foray into children’s novels.
I definitely loved the Australian circus setting, which is not something you see a lot of in literature! It’s like Disney’s Brave meets a suburban Aussie showground. There is a definite sense of place in the descriptions and even an acknowledgement of the indigenous land custodians which I thought was good.
The magic system taps into the Welsh heritage of the magic characters and I really liked that too. People often think of Irish Celts when they think of pagan magic; you don’t often see Welsh rep. The Welsh language is used for a lot of the spells.
The first half is a little slower moving as the story sets up, but after an exciting location shift halfway through, the pace and stakes become more engaging. The climatic scenes are suitably dramatic and satisfying. The story wraps up nicely, while still dropping a hint or two about the possibility of a sequel (which is indeed coming).
There are some quite interesting “sliding doors” type ideas here, to get you thinking about the ways our choices affect our lives. I wasn’t sure I agreed with the book’s take on the extent to which one choice can change who we fundamentally are as people, but I think it’s interesting food for thought and discussion.
I can see this one being a good read-together book – the type of book you might read a chapter of aloud each night at bedtime or every day in a classroom setting. It’s engaging enough to keep the adult interested as well as the kid, and could prompt some interesting conversations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Armstrong was an award-winning journalist at the ABC before writing three novels for adults, including Salt Rain which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Big Magic is her first book for children.