Melody’s ensuing adventure, while seemingly simple, is delightfully whimsical, yet still provides space for surprisingly accurate, age-appropriate scientific explanations of both Down syndrome and 3-D printers. Also included are frank depictions of Melody’s health and early challenges, including being born with a bad heart. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Melody displays an abundance of self-confidence and character. Not only is she sure of her abilities, she’s popular, has an exhaustive list of talents such as hugging and humming, and has a wide range of interests including swordplay and cute clothes. (She takes pride in demonstrating that fun and adventure have no gender.)
The illustrations, although expressive, competently composed, and detailed, are missing some of the color bursting from the vivid prose. There’s not much explanation for the bully’s actions or his change of heart and apology, and the lack of faculty intervention or supervision might leave adults a little puzzled. However, these are minor loose threads in the imaginative tapestry that is Melody’s magical adventure.
Takeaway: This charming flight of fancy with an equally charming protagonist will delight readers who want to be both educated and entertained.
Great for fans of Liam O’Donnell’s West Meadows Detectives series, Ellen Potter’s Piper Green and the Fairy Tree series.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A
MELODY'S MAGICAL FLYING MACHINE
Illus. byCaroline Zina
A fourth grade girl creates a magical flying machine with the help of an enchanted bird in this children’s book.
Melody, 10, loves hugs, daydreaming, singing, and storytelling. She also has Down syndrome; as she explains, “I can do almost everything other children can do, and I’m happy.” But she’s not so happy after being bullied by Robert, a new boy at school who mocks her storytelling and short stature. To feel better, Melody sits beneath her favorite daydreaming tree, where a tall creature with gray metal feathers introduces herself as “JuJu the Enchanted Bird.” JuJu helps Melody design and create a wonderful flying machine that looks like a giant snail shell powered by two dragons. At school, she swoops around in her machine, proclaiming: “I am Melody the tall and brave warrior.” Later on, Melody tells tales of adventure and magic to her enthralled classmates. Finally, even Robert comes around, saying: “I want you to know I like your stories. I’m sorry I was mean to you.” Though Melody is sad when JuJu must go, her friend reminds the girl of her strengths. In the end, Melody says, “I felt good about who I was and what I could do. I was a brave storyteller.” Melody is an engaging narrator whose cheerful affection, knack for happiness, and zestful imagination express themselves in every line. This extends even to her clothes; every outfit she wears is, in some way, her favorite. She appreciates others, delighting in her little brother’s silly knock-knock jokes. Whether or not readers have Down syndrome, most will relate to Melody’s sadness at social exclusion and benefit from the creative, self-affirming response that she demonstrates. Zina’s pencil illustrations are beautifully textured and shaded, with a magical quality that deftly matches the text.
A joyful, well-told story that celebrates the power of imagination.