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The Most Magnificent Thing Hardcover – April 1, 2014
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From the Publisher
Ashley Spires grew up in a little town on the coast of British Columbia called Tsawwassen with two parents, an older sister, eight cats, a dog and the occasional newt.
For a while she thought that animation was her future, but then photography caught her eye, which led her to bookmaking courses. These classes opened her eyes to the world of illustration and she never looked back. Delighted that there was, in fact, a career that allowed her to remain in her pajamas, hang out with her cats and be productive at the same time, she knew illustration was the perfect job for her.
Ashley spent time living in Toronto and Saskatoon before returning to her home turf of Delta, British Columbia where she now resides with three cats, a dog and her extremely patient fella.
Everyone Loves The Most Magnificent Thing!
"A model for girl engineers.”
— Publishers Weekly.
"Precisely the kind of book we need for kids these days."
— Elizabeth Bird.
"Expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight.”
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review.
100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
— New York Public Library.
From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—A girl decides to make something magnificent with the help of her assistant—her dog, but they "are shocked to discover that the thing isn't magnificent. Or good. It isn't even kind-of-sort-of okay. It is all wrong. The girl tosses it aside and gives it another go." From her efforts, children see the importance of planning, gathering supplies, building, and not giving up when a good idea doesn't initially work out. Ample use of white space makes the digital artwork pop. The text consists mainly of one- or two-line captions for the pictures, and the layout and design are spot-on, building action with a smart use of vignettes, boxed illustrations, and spreads. Clever use of artwork conveys the youngster's spectrum of emotions as she "saws and glues and adjusts," "smashes," "pummels," and "explodes" ("It is not her finest moment."). Then, finally, the girl finishes, and her scooter really is "the most magnificent thing." This is a solid choice with a great message that encourages kids not to quit in the face of disappointment but rather to change their perspective and start over.—Melissa Smith, Royal Oak Public Library, MI
One day, a young girl who enjoys creating things decides to build something truly special. So, after drawing diagrams, hiring an assistant (aka her best-pal pooch), and collecting materials, she establishes her sidewalk workshop. But, alas, bringing vision to fruition isn’t easy. Progressively, excitement and confidence wane, motivation turns to meltdown—then to defeat (I’m no good at this. I QUIT!). Happily, some timely dog walking brings clarity, calm, and an inspiration for an imaginative solution that just might work. Fanciful illustrations depict the spindly, cartoonish characters; the girl’s intricate found-object contraptions; and colorful scenarios against black-and-white line drawings of a city-neighborhood setting. Interspersed all-capitalized words enliven the text, though the smaller-sized, spiky font may be more for one-on-one sharing or slightly older readers. With witty and whimsical elements (including the dog’s side antics), this supportively portrays the sometimes-frustrating process of translating ideas to reality and shows how a new perspective can help problem solve and rekindle enthusiasm and joy. Grades K-2. --Shelle Rosenfeld
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A girl and her dog are best friends. They do everything together from exploring to racing to making things. So when the girl has an idea one day for “the most MAGNIFICENT thing” that they can make together, the dog has no objection. Plans are drawn up, supplies gathered, and the work begins. And everything seems to be fine until it becomes infinitely clear that the thing she has made? It’s all wrong! Not a problem. She tosses it and tries again. And again. And again. Soon frustration turns to anger and anger into a whopping great temper tantrum. Just when the girl is on the brink of giving up, her doggie partner in crime suggests a walk. And when they return they realize that even if they haven’t gotten everything right yet, the previous attempts did a right thing here or a right thing there. And when you put those parts together what you’ll have might not be exactly like it was up in your brain, but it’ll be a truly magnificent thing just the same.
I think perhaps the main reason we don’t see a lot of books about kids trying and failing is that this sort of plot doesn’t make for a natural picture book. I won’t point any fingers, but the usual plot about success follows this format: Hero tries. Hero fails. Hero tries. Hero fails. Hero tries. Hero succeeds. Now hero is an instant pro. You see the problem. I’ve seen this plotline used on everything from learning to ride a bike to playing an instrument. And what Spires has done here that’s so marvelous is show that there’s a value in failure. A value that won’t yield success unless you go over your notes, rethink what you’ve already thought, reexamine the problem, and try it from another angle. In this book the failure is continual and incredibly frustrating. The girl actually has quite a bit of chutzpah, since she completes at least eleven mistakes before finally hitting on a solution. Useful bits and pieces are culled, but it’s also worth noting that the inventions left behind, while they don’t do her much good, are claimed by other people with other ideas. It sort of reinforces the notion that even as you work towards your own goals, your process might be useful to other people, whether or not you recognize that fact at the time.
Spires doesn’t cheat either. Our unnamed heroine idea is actually clear cut about what she wants to make from the start. On the page where it reads, “One day, the girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing” you can see her on her scooter explaining her idea to her now thoroughly exhausted pup. It’s only on the last page that we learn that the thing in question was to be a pug-sized sidecar for the aforementioned scooter.
Now Ms. Spires is no newbie to the world of children’s literature. If you have not seen her Binky the Space Cat graphic novel series for kids, it is about time you hied thee hence and found those puppies. In them, you will discover that not only is she remarkably good at the subtle visual gag, but that her writing is just tiptop. Some of the choices she made for this book were fascinating to me. It’s written in the present tense. Neither the girl nor the dog has a name. At the same time it’s incredibly approachable. I love how Spires relates the girl’s travails. The final solution is also all the better because even with her success it’s not perfectly perfect. “It leans a little to the left, and it’s a bit heavier than expected. The color could use a bit of work, too. But it’s just what she wanted!” Perfection can be a terrible thing to strive for. Sometimes, just getting it right can be enough.
And yes, I have to mention it at some point: It’s about a scientifically minded girl character. Now you might feel like this ain’t no big a thing, but let me assure you that when I was wracking my brain to come up with readalikes for this title, I came up nearly empty. Picture books where girls are into nature science? Commonplace. But books where girls are into math or invention? Much more difficult. There are a couple exception to the rule (“Violet the Pilot” by Steve Breen, “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty, and “Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World” by Mac Barnett come to mind) but by and large they are rare. Yet if this had been a book where the whole point was something along the lines of even-girls-can-love-science I would have loathed it. The joy of “The Most Magnificent Thing” is that the girl’s goal is the focus, not the girl herself. Her love of tinkering is just natural. A fact of life. As well it should be.
On the back bookflap for this book we are able to discover the following information about Ms. Spires: “Ashley has always loved to make things and she knows the it-turned-out-wrong frustration well! All of her books have at one point or another made her cry, scream and tear her hair out as she tried to get them JUST RIGHT.” I guess that children’s authors really are the finest authorities on trial and error. They know frustration. They know rejected drafts. They know how much work it takes to get a book just right. And when all the right elements come together at last? Then you get a book like “The Most Magnificent Thing”. I don’t know how long it took Ms. Spires to write and illustrate this. All I know is that it was worth it. In the end, it’s precisely the kind of book we need for kids these days. Perfection is a myth. Banged up, beat up, good enough can sometimes be the best possible solution to a problem. A lesson for the 21st century children everywhere.
For ages 3-7.
other people will follow their dreams just like her and her family🐈😁
Love Gracie mauck PS always follow your heart
I'm only 11 I love this book I incorge other people to follow their own dreams and meet there goals just like me I know that you can follow your heart and your mind so go for it this woman did something incredible so can you just put your mind to it!
Love Gracie mauck 😘😇