*I won a free copy of this book in an online competition. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?
The Magic Carpet features a tapestry of different cultures, nationalities and generations, all woven together through a shared school, neighbourhood and a story-centred school project.
We get to dip in and out of the lives and houses of a diverse cast of children, parents, siblings, grandparents and friends as they all tackle the task of reinterpreting a classic fairytale in their own unique ways.
The themes of cultural identities and cultural integration, and the struggle for immigrants to balance their own family history and traditions with their desire to ‘fit in’ with those around them are sensitively explored from a variety of different perspectives, giving plenty of food for thought, especially in our current social context.
The other overarching theme is that of the importance of stories and storytelling. The importance of ‘own voice’ story experiences, the unity of collaborating on stories; the way stories can be written and rewritten to shape reality into different patterns and change the way we think about the challenges we – and others – face.
More than a morality tale, though, this story paints a warm picture of each different family environment: their individual struggles and successes, dreams and fears. The characters feel like friends and neighbours, and I was thoroughly invested in what happened to them… still thinking about them long after I turned the final page.
This is a beautiful, skilfully-crafted tale that entertains and moves the reader (to tears on occasion!), and really makes you think about privilege, respect, diversity and what these things mean to different people. And, of course, it is perfect for anyone who loves a good story!
On the magic carpet with Xoriyo I’m a child again, whooping with joy and laughter, swooshing, swirling, fearless of the height. We’re children together, but also wise: we know the languages of the places we see, our homeland and those of others. We can communicate with any of our fellow travellers… Xoriyo sees curving blue rivers far below and she knows they are called meanders; she sees oxbow lakes, murrains and wadis and she knows what all these are too. On the magic carpet we understand all people we meet: the goatherd, the engineer, and his toddling twins. We may choose to wear whatever we like from abayas to swimsuits. We are confident in our choices and violence and ignorance can do us no harm.
Really there is no reason my daughter should not make friends at this school, new friends, who can take this journey with us through fresh places and new joys. We can have every passport and none, here; we can belong and invite others to belong with us.
On the magic carpet we are free.
– Jessica Norrie, The Magic Carpet
The Magic Carpet is available on Amazon right now!