Extraordinary Magic: The Storytelling Life of Virginia Hamilton

Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano. Jan. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316383592.
Gr 1-4–Depicting the genesis of the imaginative world of a groundbreaking writer for children, this is the first picture book biography about Virginia Hamilton. Before she was the first Black author to get a Newbery, she was Ginny Hamilton. She learned how to be a storyteller from her extraordinary mother and her mandolin-playing father. In 16 poems, Crews gives readers a glimpse at Hamilton’s childhood, one filled with family and love but also marked by segregation. These kid-friendly entries center around aspects that will resonate with young readers, such as growing up on a farm and spats with her. Themes presented in these verses echo in the works that would later make her famous, such as the unbelievable folk stories that she would hear her family tell, and her nightmares about “The Faceless One,” whom she overcame with the power of words. The final entry shares how Hamilton moved back to her family home, a return to the touchstones from which she drew much of her inspiration. Crews’s illustrations is the star here. The collage-style digital art captures the greens of the verdant family farm and the blues of the expansive skies. Swirls of glitterlike squares dance throughout the spreads, hinting at the extraordinary magic that permeated through her everyday life and the stories she wrote. Selected bibliography; selected list of her books; Crews’s note explaining her research method, including interview Adoff; time line; and several archival photos.
VERDICT Purchase this lovely picture book biography as an introduction to Hamilton’s work or to encourage future creators. With every page, readers will be inspired to follow their own magic.

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