A young boy performs a magic trick (of a sort) in memory of his grandfather.
Henry is a smiling, round-headed, white boy who bounces out of bed one morning and decides to seek some magic. He dons a red plaid jacket, packs up a battered leather suitcase, and heads to his backyard. Along the way he chats with his mom in the kitchen and remembers time spent with his grandfather. Pulling a black top hat from his suitcase, Henry fishes about inside it for a rabbit. Initially disappointed to feel nothing at all, Henry is heartened by remembering his grandfather’s admonition that “magic is…all around.” Readers may not quite follow Henry’s logic when a rabbit still doesn’t appear, but he’s perfectly satisfied, particularly when he discovers that pancakes are on the breakfast menu. Roberts’ sophisticated text tells a bit more than it shows, and some of his descriptions may be a bit obscure (will young readers grasp that “magic-scented water” is most likely aftershave?). Hocking’s illustrations, created with watercolor, graphite, colored pencil, and Photoshop, faithfully and charmingly depict the characters and action. Sepia tones indicate sections when Henry is reminiscing, and visual details fill in some of the family’s history.
Ultimately, however, the disconnect between the cheerful illustrations and the serious subject matter is disconcerting and may make it difficult for Henry to find an appreciative audience. (Picture book. 4-7)