Imagine a bag of candies with the power to bring your sofa to life and give voice to falling leaves. Would you want to pop one in your mouth and see what happens?
The young hero of Heena Baek’s award-winning picture book Magic Candies does just that. The other children don’t seem to want to play with Tong Tong, so he entertains himself with a bag of hard candies. Each piece results in a startling conversation that helps Tong Tong learn something about himself, his relationships, and the world around him.
As you enjoy this delightful story with children ages 4-8, try some of these reflective activities to deepen their engagement:
Talking Sofa. Tong Tong’s sofa is uncomfortable because there’s a remote poking it in the side, not to mention dad’s smelly farts. The sofa needs Tong Tong’s help to change these situations. Talk with children about times when they feel uncomfortable. Ask what bugs them and what they wish they could do about it. Then follow up with these questions: Who could you ask to help you when you feel uncomfortable? What would you want them to do?
Marbles the Dog. Sometimes kids and their pets get out of sync. Marbles tells Tong Tong that he likes to play but he also needs time to rest. He explains that his yawns aren’t because he’s bored. They mean he’s feeling anxious! Ask children to strike a pose that signals they are feeling bored. Then ask them to change to a pose that says, “I’m nervous.” Try out other poses (e.g., scared, excited, uncertain). Promise to pay attention to their signals in the future.
Dad’s Wall of Words. You might be tempted to skip over the page full of dad’s words. Don’t. Use your best bossy parent voice and read quickly. Then switch to a quiet, loving voice for the candy’s revelation. Give each other a hug at the end of this section.
Bubblegum Grandma. Tong Tong’s grandmother has died, yet her voice is still in his ear. Because he wants to keep her close, he sticks his bubblegum under the kitchen table. Talk with children about how they keep family and friends who have died close. Ask: Who do you miss? What photos or activities do you use to remember them? What do you imagine they would say to you if they could come back and visit?
Falling Leaves. One of the candies helps Tong Tong hear the Fall leaves saying goodbye. Go for a walk in a green space together and listen to the sounds of nature. Share what you hear the trees, birds, earth, and sky saying to you.
The See-Through Candy. Tong Tong’s last candy prompts him to speak his own desire. Invite children to imagine that they are sucking on the see-through candy. The candy is quiet, waiting for them to speak. Ask: What do you want to say? What is your desire? Encourage them to draw a picture of themselves with those words in a speech bubble.