Make Magic! Do Good!
by Dallas Clayton
We who work at the Butler Center have the privilege of opening up new packages of books nearly every day, sometimes fresh from the press. Books get stacked, fiction and non-fiction become intermingled, and it is easy for a wonderful book to get lost amidst the chaos. But then each book is picked up and entered into our system. I always look at each book as a new experience, a wonderful possibility for my next read. But then I move along because, well…it’s my job to.
Yet, sometimes the reader inside gets the best of me, and I find myself lost in a book. It is a rare occasion, because I am a very diligent worker, but sometimes a book grabs me so tightly that I have no chance of becoming free until I turn the final page. This recently happened to me here in the Butler Center with Dallas Clayton’s 2012 book of poetry titled Make Magic! Do Good!
Sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, sometimes joyful, sometimes gently sad, this book respects the child reader and understands that he or she experiences profound, deep feelings just as much as grownups. There are forty-nine poems in the collection, all illustrated in a simple, sketch-like style with vibrant colors and dynamic expression. About the artistic medium, the front matter states, “The illustrations were done in two parts positive vibes and three parts watercolor rainbow sprinkles.” This captures the whimsical, creative, playful spirit of the poetry. The silly poems, such as “Amanda the Panda” and Xavier Xing Xu” wholly encapsulate the spirited, snappy mind of a child. Clayton’s humorous illustration note does not demonstrate the incredible emotional depth several poems communicate. One of my favorites is titled “Slumber,” and it’s only four, simple lines:
You won’t know all the answers
You won’t get everything right
But once you learn you don’t have to know ‘em
You’ll sleep the best at night.
The illustration accompanying this poem is a big, pink animal, fast asleep in a bed covered in a blue and orange starred comforter, and the vast white space comforts the eye. I opened this page, experienced both text and image, and I had to experience it again. As a person who struggles with perfectionism and anxiety, this poem is the perfect mantra for peace. What a lesson to learn, and absolutely beautiful that Clayton is telling it to children.
It doesn’t stop there. Clayton’s honest poems and imaginative illustrations include topics as varied as enemies, decision-making, love, sharing, friendship, money, and the potential end of the world, and he tackles them with vibrant energy, poignant honesty, and joy. And there are some pretty darn silly ones along the way.
I haven’t been stopped like this by a book here at the Butler Center in a while, but Make Magic! Do Good! certainly shouted my name that day and echoed in my heart and mind for the days and weeks to come. In a world that we all know is filled with bad stuff—violence, sadness, sickness—it is lovely to find a book filled with message of hope, love, strength, silliness, honesty, warmth, and peace, peace, peace.
Please watch this animation based on the book, and listen to the profound poem that closes the work, the title poem of the collection, Make Magic! Do Good!