Friday, October 28, 2016

SRPS TV Night: Just Add Magic

Three girls find an ancient magical cookbook and through the recipes inside they learn about the power of love, the value of friendship, and the importance of being yourself.

I don't watch a lot of television geared toward the tween set, but when this popped up in my Amazon recommendations I was intrigued. I love cooking and magic and empowering young women, so it seemed like it might be something I could enjoy.

And you know what? It is!

Just Add Magic is the perfect blend of thrilling and charming -- something quite rare these days when shows are either gritty and realistic or saccharine sweet. It doesn't resort to cringe-worthy sitcom set-ups or jokes you can see coming a mile away. It's actually quite enchanting while also being quirky and fun.

The basic premise: Kelly Quinn and her two BFFs, Darbie and Hannah, find an old cookbook in the attic that used to belong to her grandmother, who has become strangely silent over the last couple of months. They quickly learn this cookbook is not for making ordinary dishes -- it's full of magical recipes and mysterious clues. And they hope it will be the key to solving the mystery of Kelly's grandmother's illness... or curse.

But nothing is easy when it comes to magic. These recipes bring a new sense of power, but at a price.

These girls are smart, brave, and kind. They recognize that they work best as a team, supporting each other and relying on their different talents to get through each challenge they face. Each episode has its own mystery or puzzle the girls are trying to solve, and the series has an important overarching mystery that they work on through each episode. And, of course, each mystery involves a recipe from the magical cookbook.

And these girls are ... well... girls. They're not young adults. They're tweens. And they're allowed to be their age. There's no talk about make up or boyfriends or shopping. The show obviously centers around the girls spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, but it is never shown as being a gendered activity. Jake, their slightly older male friend, runs his own bicycle food cart selling his own culinary creations.

I'm almost done with season 1. And in what seems like perfect timing, there is a very special Halloween episode for this week.

The series is based on the book Just Add Magic, by Cindy Callaghan. I haven't read it yet, but I have ordered a copy from my library.

My only real criticism about this show is that it is very, very white. The three main characters, Kelly, Darbie and Hannah, are white, as are their families. With the exception of Mama P, who is Latina, and Jake, who is African American, most of the other people we see are white. The good news is that neither of these characters are stereotypes or there solely as support characters. They are fully-fledged characters, each with their own, albeit limited, character arcs.

This show is geared for tweens, but I would recommend it for anyone looking for something uplifting and entertaining.

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