BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Magic Hour by Ian Beck [in Shelf Awareness]

As British artist and author Ian Beck explains in his afterword, he first visited London’s Tate Gallery “as a callow art student.” He discovered then his favorite painting in the collection: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent. In a verdant Cotswolds garden, two young girls are seen lighting paper lanterns amid a profusion of shimmering greens and blooming flowers, the light “just right” – what Sargent called “the magic hour.” More than 50 years later, Beck was “asked to thread a story and pictures around the twilight mood of this wonderful painting” aptly titled The Magic Hour. His gentle text runs alongside the rambunctious girls, growing in size and shape as they explore their summer home.

Sisters Lily, age 11, and Rose, age 9, spent “that hot summer long ago” in an old house near a river, surrounded by lush gardens. The girls “went everywhere together,” never standing still. And always, “First Lily, then Rose,” ran along meandering paths and enjoyed the swing under the shade of the old oak tree. With the growing heat, Mother bobbed the girls’ long tresses, promising, “You’ll feel much cooler now.” One early evening, Rose noticed a golden flickering light emanating from the garden next door – and wondered if it might be a fairy. Telling Lily naturally induced further investigation, and together the sisters ventured into the moonlight for a night of magical discovery.

In a palette of soft blues and greens, Beck’s beckoning watercolor illustrations re-create the garden’s blooms, the girls’ ruffled white dresses, their youthful gazes, the glowing lanterns of soft light. Beck’s artistry expands Sargent’s single canvas into a commemoration of sisterhood and an invitation to adventure – all while celebrating that Magic Hour of summer enchantment.

Discover: Inspired by a John Singer Sargent painting of two girls lighting lanterns at dusk, Ian Beck creates an idyll on the page about sisters Lily and Rose’s garden adventures during The Magic Hour.

Review: “Children & Young Adult,” Shelf Awareness, November 22, 2019

Readers: Children

Published: 2019


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