100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Review: Make Magic! Do Good! by Dallas Clayton

Make Magic! Do Good!
By Dallas Clayton

Candlewick Press

ISBN: 9780763657468
Grades K-3
In Stores Nov. 13, 2012

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

Sometimes, it’s nearly impossible to separate art from its creator. The work and the person who made it are so intertwined it’s difficult to tell where the personality stops and the art begins. Think films by Quentin Tarentino, music by Beck, or children’s books by Jon Scieszka or Mo Willems. Such is the case with self-publishing underdog Dallas Clayton. If you’re familiar with Clayton (know of any children’s book creators featured in a Google commercial? Now you do.), you know the man lives what he has preached – positivity, love, absurdity – in each of the three message-heavy but intriguing books he has put out to date. All of those elements are on display in Make Magic! Do Good! – a collection of poetry and Clayton’s first traditionally published book. While sometimes heavy-handed, it is an ultimately likable batch of poems.

Each spread of these 97 pages contains a poem and an accompanying illustration. Clayton is at his best when the wonder, whimsy and humor are turned up to 11 and the overt positivity is implied more than stated. The Teeny-Tiny Giant, about a little Giraffe, hits the mark with simplicity.

The teeny-tiny giant

was only ten feet tall

and while that’s giant size to you and me

to giants it’s quite small.

Some poems don’t quite get off the ground, however. Genius suffers from a muddled message and Xavier Xing Xu gets lost in rapid fire tongue acrobatics. Others, like the winning Amanda the Panda, fall on the side of thoughtful and funny – a zone that suits Clayton well.

There’s a heavy dose of “dream big” encouragement here. While that is certainly better than the alternative, it can be more of a feel-good device for adults than instructive to kids, who I think are usually better served by a poem that simply delights. Thankfully, this collection contains a number of them.

The ink and watercolor illustrations are colorful and childlike. The artwork pairs well with the poems, sometimes giving life to the words and other times bringing out an unexpected interpretation. This folky style will appeal to young readers and reflects the illustrator’s can-do life story.

Similar to his previous work, Make Magic! Do Good! is Dallas Clayton on the page, for good and for bad. But like the man, his work contains a joy that is hard to deny. Read this and watch the positive vibes flow.

Review copy from the publisher.

Be sure to check out the Poetry Friday round-up at TeacherDance.

Visit Dallas Clayton’s website.

Also reviewed by The Show Me Librarian, Neely’s News.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Hi Travis, I enjoyed reading your review – as well as discovering those which worked and didn’t work for you. :)

  2. Sounds like a poetry book little boys would like!