Leon and the Place Between

Leon and the Place Between

by Angela McAllister, Grahame Baker-Smith

"Angela McAllister and Grahame Baker-Smith’s stunning picture book combines shadowy collage, painting, photography, and gilding to overwhelm readers with the power of magic." — THE TIMES (London)

Leon and his brothers and sister go to a magic show, but this is no ordinary show and Abdul Kazam is no ordinary magician. Take a journey

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"Angela McAllister and Grahame Baker-Smith’s stunning picture book combines shadowy collage, painting, photography, and gilding to overwhelm readers with the power of magic." — THE TIMES (London)

Leon and his brothers and sister go to a magic show, but this is no ordinary show and Abdul Kazam is no ordinary magician. Take a journey right through the die-cut pages of this book into the Place Between, where magic becomes truly real. Angela McAllister has conjured a spellbinding story that unfolds in the mysterious world of Grahame Baker-Smith’s stunning illustrations.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When young Leon volunteers to take part in a magician's disappearing act, he is transported to a glittering limbo where all magical props—cards, coins, rabbits, a magician's assistant or an audience member like himself—wait before being summoned back with another wave of a hand or wand. Baker-Smith's moody, gold-filigreed digital pictures, which will remind many readers of the movie Coraline, conjure up the excitement of surrendering to suspended disbelief (die cuts and a gatefold add extra pizzazz to the spreads, although the story isn't significantly helped by their presence). Unfortunately, McAllister's writing does not take the story beyond its promising premise, and Leon's time in “the Place Between” is over almost before it starts. Additionally, the typography, which is set in tidy rectangles and modeled on theatrical posters, while stylistically consistent with the feel of the book, is a jumble of fonts and capitalizations. For readers, the magic is in the artwork. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
A dazzling, glittering, digital montage is the visual setting for the magical tale of how Leon reaches the place between there and back again. Although his brothers scoff at the magic show, Leon tells his sister, "It will be magic. You have to believe." From the darkness of a double page, "with a ripple of gold braid," the curtains part to reveal three jugglers. Then in more darkness, to the music of a barrel organ, a page folds out for another remarkable display. But it is with the appearance of Abdul Kazam the magician that the magic really begins. Leon volunteers to step into the die-cut out the door to a box and finds himself in THE PLACE BETWEEN, the place where magic sends all things that disappear. When he is called back through the opening, Leon brings a magic rabbit with him. He tells his sister that anyone can go to "the place that magic takes you… anyone who believes." The cover, with its several styles of lettering suggesting circuses and magic shows, is ornamented with gold filigree and the image of a goateed magician above Leon and his rabbit. Inside, the youngsters pause outside a fancy tent, then enter and sit down for the show. The text appears in boxes, many of which are elaborate placards using a variety of types. We turn the page for visions of objects, floods of magical paraphernalia, even a flying carpet. There is much to examine and investigate to suggest the magic of this lush title. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—A spectacular blend of fantasy and reality results in a whimsical wonderland. When Leon and his siblings visit a magic show, they view the jugglers' amazing athletic feats, the mechanical toys as they whiz and whirl, and the enchanted carousel's lulling tunes—until the imposing Abdul Kazam appears. With a twist of his cape and a gleam in his eye, the formidable magician calls Leon into his act, transporting him to the "place between." Baker-Smith utilizes dramatic foldouts to depict the glorious night scenes. Digital illustrations provide richness and depth; majestic purple backgrounds dominate, and swirling golden lines support the dynamic, fluid spreads. Balanced between shadow and light, expressive angular faces convey the audience's astonishment. McAllister's descriptive text provides powerful emphasis through taut dialogue; shifting font varies for added emphasis. Phrases build momentum to a natural crescendo as Leon shares with the others that his place between exists for "anyone who believes." The result is a magical delight for both skeptics and believers.—Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC
Kirkus Reviews
Aimed at readers who enjoy such elaborately illustrated, strongly atmospheric ventures into mysterious worlds as Neil Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls, illustrated by Dave McKean (2003), and Chris Van Allsburg's The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (1979), this episode briefly casts a young member of a stage magician's audience through a die-cut hole into that Place "between there and back again" where magicians' props and assistants go when they disappear. Illustrating a brief text presented circus-poster style in an eye-crossing variety of typefaces, Baker-Smith fills the worlds on both sides of the small entryway with dense, deeply shadowed digital collages, shot through in the Place Between with swirls of stars and golden filigree, sprays of leaves and flowers, figures in exotic dress, streams of playing cards and ripples of rich fabrics. Picking up a rabbit there, Leon steps back out of the magician's cabinet to rejoin his skeptical but awed brothers, and tells his excited little sister that "the place that magic takes you" is open to "anyone... Anyone who believes." Fair insight, that, though trite and easier said than done. (Picture book. 6-9)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.50(d)
440L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Angela McAllister has written more than fifty books for children. She lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and children.

Grahame Baker-Smith is a self-taught illustrator. He lives in Bath, England, with his wife and children.

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