Book review: Paper Magic

Paper Magic by Jeffery E Doherty (IFWG Publishing)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-0-9923020-1-6
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller 

Paper Magic is a fiction chapter book from author/illustrator, Jeffery E Doherty. It tells the story of Marina who is a young girl of approximately 12 or 13, who like most girls her age, harbours insecurities and feelings of self-consciousness. What makes Marina’s case different is that for a reason unknown to the reader (but not integral to the plot), Marina is confined to a wheelchair. 

The author states that the book is suited to secondary school readers, however I feel that grade five and six students would follow and identify with the themes of friendships and family while being intrigued by the mysticism of the ‘paper magic’. Jeffery’s simple but textual black and white illustrations support the text also making it accessible for primary readers. 

The mood of the story starts somewhat solemnly with Marina observing the bright and jovial landscape of the park from the distance of her room as she contemplates starting a new school. Marina’s frustration is made clear and it encourages the reader to continue so as to understand why she can’t go outside herself. It is not evident at first that Marina has a handicap. 

Marina’s family are represented by her mother and grandmother and they follow a typical mother/daughter dynamic with tensions between each of the generations, leading the reader to think this may be a serious story.  However the grandmother’s introduction of enchanted paper surprises, quickly transforms the plot to a lively, engaging pace. 

The magic paper along with Marina’s grandmother, lead her on to an adventure in the park where she meets Toby, Amelia and Sam. Together they unlock the true potential of ‘paper magic’ and along the way discover aspects of themselves which are conveyed via light-hearted mini-plots. The descriptive used by Doherty is original without being overworked. 

Marina’s disability is not the focus of the story, but a vehicle for her insecurities. The idea of making new friends, starting a new school and navigating family will be familiar to most readers making Marina easily identifiable. 

The origin of the magic paper and how Marina’s grandmother came to possess it is not ratified which could be explored in a follow up story or as prequel.

I found Paper Magic thought provoking while captivating and younger readers will have opportunities to draw conclusions and predict outcomes.