Title: The Magic Beads
Author: Susin Nielsen-Fernlund
Illustrator: Geneviève Côté
Publisher: Simply Read Books
Concepts: scarcity, wants and needs, economics and conflict
Review: Trying to fit in as the new kid in a different school can be a challenging experience for many children, including Lillian. The butterflies she feels in her stomach on her first day steadily feel like larger animals churning around as the week progresses. The main culprit behind this anxiety is the upcoming Show and Tell: as the children bring in some rather impressive toys in preparation for the big event, Lillian grows increasingly worried because she has nothing comparable to bring in. She and her mom had to move suddenly to a family shelter because of her dad’s bad temper, and they left all their belongings behind. Lillian’s mother is saving every penny to rent an apartment and cannot afford to buy Lillian a new toy. Only when Lillian comes up with a creative solution to her predicament and comes to terms with her current living situation at the shelter do the butterflies go away.
The Magic Beads is an excellent example of a children’s book that broaches a difficult topic—in this case, domestic violence—in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner. The expressive illustrations work effectively to communicate the conflicting emotions that the protagonist feels. Woven into the compelling story are some powerful economics lessons about scarcity, wants and needs, and the economics of conflict. This book offers a hopeful message that Lillian and her mother, who experienced extreme conflict at home and a change in living standards at the shelter, are able to find help and support as they transition to a new chapter in their lives.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children