Aster and the Accidental Magic
Written by Thom Pico
Illustrated by Karensac
Translated by Anne and Owen Smith
Published by RH Graphic
Statement of Intent
Aster and the Accidental Magic is a book (two, really) about being in an unexpected place and having lots of emotions you can’t control, both good subjects for kids to see as being okay. Graphic novels are a great resource for your classroom at home to spend time reading, and then further engaging with what they’re reading. In this one, a girl who is new in town- a weird town- becomes wrapped up in the powers and politics of the spirits of the Valley. When things come to a physical confrontation, they are solved by Aster’s unorthodox wisdom. A book where everyone, child, adult, and wizard, makes mistakes in judgment of character. It’s my hope that this lesson plan addressing the writing, art, translation, and themes found within Aster and the Accidental Magic can inspire writing, discussion, and activities. Customize the ideas presented here to suit the comprehension and interests of your students.
It always helps to start by placing the book in the context of the classroom. Has anyone read a comic before, or a comic that has been translated from one language to another like this one Thom Pico has written? Aster and the Accidental Magic is all about Aster’s move to the country, but everyone has places they don’t feel comfortable in at first. The cute art from Karensac is bound to grab the interest of many readers before they get a chance to engage with the story. There are plenty of art exercises you can skip forward to- they will lead the reader back around to the story in their own time; there are brief guides to all the characters at the end of the collection. The start of the book is also a good place to familiarize everyone with the process of how comics are made, and how this one is unique.
Aster Makes Some Poorly Thought Out Wishes
Aster plays video games and adopts a puppy once she finally leaves the house.
‘Wishes’ to pg. 35
- The story starts on the very first page. Are there parts of a book you normally skip? Do you like books with maps and story outside the story?
- Is anyone listening to Aster?
Art Six panels, six expressions on pg. 14 is a chance to talk about how art tells the story, too. This one is all about how Aster reacts to things.
Aster’s wish to talk to Buzz didn’t go as planned, but a second wish should fix everything.
‘Wishes’ to pg. 65
- Discuss the trickster Rapscallion and if he has a choice whether or not he can grant wishes without also bringing ruin.
- Wise Buzz can’t outpace Aster’s anger. What could he have done differently?
Art What does everyone think of Rapscallion’s design? He glows!
Anger has put Aster in over her head, but she finds help in her new friends.
- This story has a big fight scene, and Granny gets hurt. Is violence still fun when people we know are involved?
- Can Aster and Buzz trust Rapscallion to fix everything?
Art The monster family pg. 66-73 has some great accessories and some cute photos in their house.
Reflections on ‘Wishes’
Themes Reflect: This story was about rash decisions. Going through troubling times can teach you about what matters to you. Sometimes your new perspective helps you see other people’s views in a new way, too.
Accommodations Identify or create: cases (like the monster family) where the outside of something is unexpectedly different from how it is inside.
Aster Gets A Magical Fox Exceedingly Upset
Living in the Valley suits Aster, or it does until the King of Autumn finds her.
‘A Magical Fox’ to pg. 139
- Aster looks and acts older in this story than the last one.
- The King of Autumn has as many facial expressions as Aster does. How are we supposed to feel about him?
Art How do the colors walking through the woods on pg. 118 make you feel?
Dad is kidnapped by his heroes, the Chestnut Knights.
‘A Magical Fox’ to pg. 170
- How do you expect the Chestnut Knights to act and what do they do? Why?
- If our responsibilities are flimsy enough that they can be interrupted by chance, why are they important?
Art The memory of the Queen of Summer on pg. 153-157 doesn’t have any outside lines, it is just colors.
The dramatic conclusion is wilder and cuter than last time, and Aster again finds a way to solve things without hurting anybody.
‘A Magical Fox’ conclusion
- Are big jobs meant for big people?
- Tiny cute versions of big scary things.
Art The fight between Aster and the King of Autumn knocked the gutters between the panels around. Why would Thom Pico and Karensac do that?
Reflections on ‘A Magical Fox’
Themes Reflect: This story was about making assumptions and defying expectations. Compromise is better than winning, but it takes trust.
Accommodations Identify or create: surprises (like who gets to wear the Crown of Seasons) and how we react to them.
- The lines that surround everything in Aster and the Accidental Magic are solid, strong, and clear. The look is reminiscent of cartoons, and since it has modern things like video games and cute sweaters, it is also reminiscent of Cartoon Network. Karensac uses the cartoon’s flexibility to create striking displays of emotion. Feelings are given a significant storytelling role. Look at Karensac’s choices as an artist storyteller beyond capturing the plot.
- The colors in this book hold the shape of things together along with the lines. The line art by itself is very controlled and flat; the colors have the job of giving the art shape and size and weight. Colors become the borders where lines don’t go. The decisions of where to leave lines in and where to let color be the guide are about finding a balance on the page.
Lettering & Translation
Anne Smith and Owen M. Smith translated Aster from French to English.
- The letterer of the book chooses the speech balloons, and I think ones without a line around them on comics colored like this are just perfect. Did anyone notice the ring around voices speaking in other languages?
- Aster was Aubépine in the original version. One is a colorful flower and one is the little red berries that grow on bushes. Which does she remind you of?
Classroom at Home
Related activity ideas set in the Valley of Accidental Magic for houses with others in them who want to follow the lessons but can’t explicitly participate, or just need something to do.
- Magic you can do: shadow puppets.
- Drawing and looking at maps.
- A Crown of the Seasons themed fashion show.
- Read more comics!