The Magic and Not-Magic in Books

Having read Struck by Genius (which was about a man who developed synesthesia and savant syndrome after suffering through a head injury) recently, I was reminded of one of my favorite books this year, Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic (which was about a girl who sees words everywhere). I never made the connection that Felicity in the latter book might actually have synesthetia when I was reading it, but an Internet search shows that others have already come to that conclusion. Was I the only one who didn’t catch that?

“That’s a wonderful word: maybe. I watched maybe stretch out, long and starry. The letter y looked as fiery as the tail of a comet; it looped around our shoulders, connecting us all together.” Felicity, ‘A Snicker of Magic’

It seems that the more exposed we are to the “facts” (where facts are presented by science, which can be wrong sometimes, so keep that in mind!) the more skeptical we become of “fiction.” If you explain everything about the world to your kids instead of asking them why they think the sky is blue (in which case you’ll probably get answers like, “Maybe water got stuck up there!”), would that limit the amount of questions they ask or the degree to which they use their imagination? Do “facts” take away “fiction,” in the sense that it limits our ability to daydream and be creative? If Felicity’s mom tells her that the words she sees is due to a neurological process in her brain, how do you think Felicity would react? (And how would you feel, as a reader? Would you be happier with learning that “fact,” or annoyed because it’s less… magical?)

Obviously, “facts” are very important, and the addition of non-fiction books to classes in many U.S. states (I ranted about this too) is a good example of how we’re trying to educate kids in a more comprehensive manner. We like to come up with questions about these “facts,” and that’s how science and science fiction advance over time. But as a reader, when I made that connection between something I thought was magic and a scientific phenomenon, I was just a little disappointed. What do you mean magic isn’t real?! (However, you can also take the stance that science is magic.)

I can go back and forth on this topic and ask a ton of questions, but here’s one for you: how do you feel when you realize magic in books isn’t… magical? Are you excited that it’s actually a real-world phenomenon, or are you disappointed because science doesn’t sound as fun?

3 thoughts on “The Magic and Not-Magic in Books

  1. Oh, I always prefer it to be magic. Of course, I figure everything I don’t understand yet is magic (the microwave and television for starters). Life itself is pretty magical if you think about it, and when things are ‘real’ I don’t think it makes them less magical. We’ve learned the science behind why a flower blooms, but it doesn’t mean it’s less magical to see. I think the trick is accepting that even knowing the science or facts behind something doesn’t really explain ‘why’, not fully, not ever – somewhere, deep down, it’s all still magic.

    • Sarah, you’re too funny! (Although I must agree, the microwave is still like some sort of dark magic to me…) And “it’s all still magic” is so right! There’s a fine line between magic and science, but both can be equally awe-inspiring. ⭐

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