Cover Image: The Magical Imperfect

The Magical Imperfect

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book was an amazing surprise and a 5 star read for me. I couldn’t put it down. I’ve read a lot of Novels in Verse recently and often find them written in normal sounding sentences but just laid out like a poem on the page with short lines. However, the language of this book was captivating and felt like poetry to me. I’m torn on if it is pure historical fiction because there are some potentially “magical” twists. This is a true own voices book with the author being Jewish like the main character Etan and his wife being Filipino with eczema like the other main character Malia. Etan’s mom had severe depression and went to a psychiatric hospital and Etan suffered from mutism as a result. It was such a layered story with relationships and dynamics and themes of immigration and underlying bias. All set against the backdrop of the 1989 Earthquake in the San Francisco area. There is a wonderful Author's note at the back describing the inspiration for the story and characters.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Pros:
~the dragon mailbox
~Filipino characters in Historical fiction
~magic clay
~the '89 World Series
~misfits finding friendship

Cons:
~While initially excited to see this book had main characters who were dealing with different types of disability, I was disappointed with how they were presented. There is a common thread of "how do we fix them" from the community in regards to both Etan and Malia, and while this is a realistic depiction of how religious communities often react to illness, there's no real indication that we should question that singular, limited view.

~Jewish "magic" delivers a miraculous cure-all that leads to my biggest issue with this book. Crossing the line of the magic cure trope, Etan helps Malia use ancient clay to heal her eczema symptoms so that she can perform at a talent show. When it works to reduce the swelling, redness, and scaly appearance of her skin, Etan observes: "...Malia's face [is] so different, like she's suddenly more herself.".

Yes, the pain Malia was experiencing from her skin condition was clearly preventing her from performing, but the transformation of her skin and assumption that looking "normal" makes her look more like herself makes me cringe for anyone who might read this and believe their own visible or invisible disability makes them even a tiny bit less than who they "should" be or how they "should" look.

Overall:
This nostalgic, character-driven story is an exploration of the isolation created by culture, disability, grief, and religion. Vulnerability, faith, and a life-altering shake-up expose the true strength of those who might otherwise be overlooked or left behind.

While cautious to recommend this book for its disability representation, I do love seeing a Historical that explores how immigrants of different origins were treated, and feel that it could lead to a lot of discussion about mental health, disability, religion, immigration, and, of course, baseball.
Was this review helpful?
The Magical Imperfect is a heart-warming blend of realistic “magic” and lessons on friendship and acceptance plus tough issues like mental illness and medical conditions that manifest in physical imperfections.  All this and in the novel-in-verse format that has become so popular with my middle grade readers!  Main character Etan has gone mute since his mother entered a hospital to learn how to cope with her worsening mental illness.  His father and grandfather are both supportive in their own way, but he is still suffering.  A delivery made to the home of a former classmate gives way to a friendship that brings healing not only to Etan, but to Malia, who endures such debilitating eczema that her eyes swell nearly shut and her skin is raw enough to bleed.  If that wasn’t enough, author Chris Baron incorporates a variety of ethnic groups all living together in a town built on immigrants from all over the world. Readers will learn much about the culture of many outside their usual sphere of influence.  And if all that isn’t enough, there is baseball and earthquakes to shake things up a bit!  Great for libraries of grades 4-8, whether those be at home, school, or in town.  No profanity, violence (except what is found in nature), or sexual content.
Was this review helpful?
This is a book that sticks with you after you finish reading it. I felt right at home among the Redwoods of California in 1989. The multi-generational characters work their way into your heart, and the complex challenges they face keep you turning the page.
Was this review helpful?
This book takes the much needed perspective of a girl with a skin condition whom other children tease. Malia is being homeschooled due to the other kids calling her "the creature." Etan is struggling to find his voice after his mom leaves. When he is making a delivery to her home, he hears her beautiful voice singing, and so begins an unlikely friendship. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake happens during this book in a town of refugees who came to America via Angel Island, this story weaves in tales of Jewish folklore, multi-generation families, baseball, school, refugees, and more,
Was this review helpful?
The Magical Imperfect is a perfectly magical book about Etan, a boy with selective mutism, and Malia, a girl with severe eczema, the friendship that grows between them, and their efforts to solve their problems with Etan's grandfather's Jewish clay with mystical properties. Set against the backdrop of the 1989 World Series and San Francisco earthquake, and told in verse, this is a wonderful story about community, friendship, and family.
Was this review helpful?
Very emotional and beautiful novel in verse that captures the both the feelings of losing your voice and finding it. The fast paced nature of the poetry leans toward the feelings it features. Etan and Malia are unforgettable characters that go through an emotional journey toward healing. I really enjoyed the historical setting where the reader saw a major earthquake on the horizon. Truly a work of art for young readers.
Was this review helpful?
The 1989 San Francisco earthquake is the backdrop of this tale told in verse about two middle schoolers who, through their friendship, find the strength to face the world. Through Chris Baron’s rich description, we feel the frequent tremors that are ALMOST everyday occurrences, but are still very disturbing, as well as the feverish excitement in their small, close knit town about both of the local baseball teams making the World Series. We also get to know Etan and Malia. Etan’s mother has left for treatment at a residential mental health facility and as a result Etan hasn’t spoken to anyone other than his grandfather for months.  Malia suffers from a severe case of eczema, and is home schooled after gaining the nickname of “The Creature” from her classmates.  We also learn about Etan’s grandfather who sailed on the Calypso from Prague to the U.S. via Angel Island, the Ellis Island of the west coast, along with many other long time residents of their small town. We watch as Grandfather opens the only thing he was able to bring from Prague; a mysterious wooden box full of secrets and magic about his Jewish heritage. It’s the box that contains where Etan finds some magic that can give Etan and Malia the courage to face their fears.

This is such a heartfelt story about friendship, family and community. I loved Etan’s relationship with not only his grandfather, but also with so many people in the community. His kindness and willingness to support his grandfather, walk a elderly woman’s dog or deliver fruit and vegetables to a housebound girl warmed my heart. I loved the community gatherings, whether it was supporting the kids at a talent show, or bringing a picnic to the town square to cheer on their teams in the World Series. I loved how all of Etan’s grandfather’s elderly friends, the people who had arrived on the Calypso so many years ago, came to weekly dinners at Etan’s apartment to celebrate the Jewish sabbath.  It was a community I would have loved to be a part of, even with the earthquakes! 

This is a story to read aloud or to offer to kids in grades 4-8. It’s available June 15th. Many thanks to @netgalley and the publisher for sharing the ebook copy.
Was this review helpful?
A beautiful story told in-verse. Etan and Malia both are struggling - selective mutism and eczema. They find comfort in each other as they also navigate the San Francisco earthquakes. A great addition to classrooms, especially book clubs!
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. The themes and threads of friendship, of the earthquake, of family history, religion, immigration, chronic illness, and magic are woven together beautifully with the verse. But it doesn't feel like it's saying all these things, it really just feels like the story of two friends who make each other's lives better by being in it.
Was this review helpful?
Malia and Etan look to be brave and together their story weaves itself into your heart!  Absolutely love the relationships, community connections, faith, friendship, and family throughout this novel in verse!  Oh-and the 80’s music mentioned brought me back to my childhood!
Was this review helpful?
Loved this novel in verse. Addresses so many vital themes- dealing with loss of sorts, fitting in, being different, choices... but most of all, the restorative power of friendship. Poignant, deeply felt, resonant.
Was this review helpful?
Exquisite novel in verse by an author at the top of his craft.  There were times I had to stop to repeat a line over again because it was just so perfect, but then I was immediately swept back into the story.  This is a book you want to finish in a single sitting.  Aside from the gorgeous verse, the story itself is a masterful integration of culture, history, and health condition representation.  Chris manages to tie in the historical events surrounding the San Francisco Bay earthquake of 1989 with a beautiful cross cultural friendship between a boy who struggles with his speech and a girl whose severe eczema keeps her away from others.  The story is also an ode to the author's own Jewish heritage and his wife's Filipino culture. And if that weren't enough, all the pieces weave together in a way that feels effortless.
Was this review helpful?
Chris Baron's verse gives voice to kids who feel separate from the world in one way or another, and he does it with such tenderness and sensitivity.  THE MAGICAL IMPERFECT is no exception. Etan and Malia are both such compelling characters, and as a pair they just shine. The portrayal of magic in their natural world - trees, rivers, clay, earthquakes - is heartbreakingly gorgeous, and I adored the way Etan's family history is such a rich part of both his life and the larger message of the story. I already have some of Chris Baron's words hanging on my wall as a daily reminder of the magical, fragile, beautiful connections we humans share. This book will give me the opportunity to add a few more. Thank you to the author, Feiwel and Friends, and NetGalley for the eARC.
Was this review helpful?
Magic and wonder can be found in the world—as long as one knows where to look. Etan and Malia stand out in their small community outside of San Francisco in the late 1980s. After his mother goes to a mental health hospital, Etan finds that he can no longer talk as freely as he once could. Malia, or The Creature as she is known, suffers from extreme eczema and is sequestered inside her house. When the two become unlikely friends, their bond helps them look beyond their insecurities to find a world that might learn to accept them both.

Written in free verse, this story is accessible to a broad middle grade audience. Carefully selected phrases welcome readers into the depth of the emotions felt by the characters in the story. Much like Etan’s selective speech, only the most important words are written into the narrative.

Cultural heritage is an important theme in this book, linking Etan’s grandfather to Malia’s grandmother in their shared emigration voyage to America. Etan’s Jewish heritage and Malia’s Filipina background are often referenced throughout the story, as well. The magic of the keepsakes brought from the Old Country provide support through many of the situations in which Malia and Etan find themselves.

At the end of the story, readers will find a note from the author that shares the many connections from his life to that of Etan and Malia. For those unfamiliar with the 1989 earthquake in the Bay Area, this story depicts the event in a tangible way, interwoven with a tale of two misunderstood young people. Middle grade readers who appreciate stories of friendship and family with some history and magic mixed in will love reading this multifaceted tale.
Was this review helpful?
I'm normally not a verse reader, but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book! The theme of resilience in the face of adversity really hits home. The verses kept the most basic descriptions interesting.
Was this review helpful?
My oh my. Baron is so purposeful with each word in this novel in verse. A beautiful mix of uniqueness, belonging, friendship, baseball, singing, family, and traditions. The stories and characters flow so well together where we have Etan’s mother who is in the hospital due to severe depression, Etan who is “selective mute”, Malia who has severe eczema and is now homeschooled, Etan’s father who is obsessed with baseball and is losing his faith, and Etan’s grandfather who is always working but has something magical to share. This is all set in the 80’s where we get many references to this time, including the ’89 World Series, San Francisco earthquake, many songs that will get you signing like “Time After Time”. A memorable novel in verse that I am eager to share—also, that cover is gorgeous!
Was this review helpful?
The Magical Imperfect was the perfect read to end 2020 with its themes of resilience and working together to overcome despite difficult circumstances and tragedy. I love how the author's gentle verse descriptions of even the most mundane objects like a tree or a pool of water make you feel like you've been looking at the world your whole life but not really seeing it.

For those who have read about or maybe even lived through the 15 seconds that rocked San Francisco on October 17, 1989, the certainty of that event looms on the horizon as the tension builds toward it. This slice of history as well as the discussions of immigration to Angel Island as the "Ellis Island of the West" make this a great option for adoption into classrooms.
Was this review helpful?
What a beautiful, magical book. I very much enjoyed my early read of THE MAGICAL IMPERFECT.
⁠
Each time I read a novel in verse, I'm reminded how much I love this style of writing -- and Chris does it so well! He had me from the very first pages. I loved the family, the community, the kindness, the traditions, the hope, the magic, and how the characters face their fears by supporting one another.⁠
⁠
I'll eagerly be awaiting more from Chris!
Was this review helpful?
This was a powerhouse of a novel-in-verse. I've been reading quite a lot of action adventure type stories lately and when I started this book, I thought it would stay in the more emotional, ethereal realm (I guess that may be my baggage with the "in-verse" tag). Boy was I surprised! 

Not only did this book capture the emotions and life-view of middle graders immensely well, it also had a lot of intrigue, mystery, excitement, and a dash of magic. I was sucked right in and smitten. It is definitely an "okay, just one more page before going to bed!" kind of book. 

One thing I especially enjoyed about the story was the relationship between Etan and Malia. Done in an easy, natural way, I could viscerally feel their bond blossoming and strengthening amid the excitement of the events in the story. And I have to admit, I did catch myself humming "Time After Time"... ;) 

Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, THE MAGICAL IMPERFECT is an inspirational story of optimism and hope.

If only this review were as lyrical as Chris Baron's work...
Was this review helpful?