I was listening to an interview with the British children’s writer Abi Elphinstone a few days ago and she was asked: why do you think we still need magic in our lives?

Illustration from  A Child of Books  by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

Illustration from A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

I’ve been thinking about this. Is magic a need? What would the world be like without magic? Does everyone agree on what ‘magic’ is? Is magic witchcraft and wizardry, white rabbits and top hats or is it more of a feeling, an emotion that arises when we’re faced with something in-credible, un-believable, wondrous? Is it real or imagined? Or is the definition more slippery than that, does the word mean different things to different people?

On the right of this page is a quote by Carl Sagan which ends with the line: ‘A book is proof that humans are capable of magic.’ To me, stories are able to transform the way we see each other, the way we see the world and our place within it. There is real magic in that. So if I were asked the question why do you think we still need magic in our lives? perhaps I would say this:

For all the suffering, cruelty, cynicism and fear that exists, there is also hope, sincerity, compassion and wonder. For me at least, storytelling, books and the human imagination are all magical and without them the world would be a far darker, lonelier place. Magic is part of the mystery of everything, it fuels so much of what is not yet, and may never be, fully understood. That’s why children find magic in everything, in the symmetrical spiral of a sea shell, the squelchiness of fresh mud, the spiked yellow fur of a caterpillar. Children sense the wonder in the most ordinary of encounters, they see it and feel it instinctively. Perhaps we as adults feel the need to keep such magic alive because it serves to warm and inspire years’ worth of experience, with the boundless, piercing light of innocence.



noun: the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

adjective: 1. used in magic or working by magic; having or apparently having supernatural powers.


wonderful; exciting.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

In the Reading Corner - Interview with Abi Elphinstone by Nikki Gamble

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