Magically Better Me!
by Barry Shin
Genre: Middle Grade / Short Stories
Print Length: 74 pages
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
An unexpected insect makes a big impact in this feel-good story collection
There are lessons to be learned with every obstacle. Or, at least that’s how one ladybug sees it.
Magically Better Me is a collection of two short stories that center around an impressive insect who can not only speak, but acts as the positive voice that two characters need during a time of upheaval and change. In this work of “common sense stories,” Barry Shin takes readers on a passage through gorgeous natural environments, tough times, and the possibilities that come with changing your mindset.
The two stories in Magically Batter Me center around a main character working through a time of change.Both are experiencing a kind of change that they haven’t had to tackle before, and it shifts their reality to a place where they cannot fully be themselves.
In the first story, “Tiny Beliefs,” a character named Flynn is trying to navigate an unexpected move. After realizing that his family is planning to relocate without him, we learn that Flynn is a dog whose life is about to change forever. While roaming the woods alone, he runs into Lady Mady Bug, who quickly turns into a guru of sorts for Flynn. This little critter speaks words of affirmation to his new dog friend, teaching him to return his thinking to a place of positivity and assuring him that with the right mindset and a bit of patience, he can find happiness in unexpected places.
The second story, whose title is also the title of the collection, a young boy named Paka moves from the city to the countryside. He’s thrown into a new environment and is unsure how to make the friends and how to adjust in this new place. He too is lucky enough to run into Lady Mady Bug, who has the answers to how he can open himself up to friendship at school. Together these two stories create a useful tool for children who are also going through times of change.
It is difficult to decide which age range this book is best suited for. Shin’s writing style is descriptive and in a way that older children and adults would have the patience and appreciation for. It’s enjoyable for me, as Shin does an excellent job with natural scenery.
But the concepts are a bit simplistic sometimes, especially in the second story “Magically Better Me.” Lady Mady Bug is the kind of rhyming character name you’d expect in a book for much smaller children, and the advice she gives to Paka might be a little too easy. The idea of making friends by asking for “friendship permission” ends up being about asking for help with a task. Paka seems to be at least 10, which is likely something a kid that age would know: if they want friends (or help), they’ll have to ask for it. The first story is strong, and it hits its goal head-on, while the second comes up a bit short for me. But in the end, I do admire the message behind both stories. Shifting your perspective from “I can’t” to “I can” through a boost in confidence and a positive mindset is a lesson that anyone can benefit from.
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