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The Magic Cornfield: 06/12/17

The Magic Cornfield by Nancy Willard

The Magic Cornfield by Nancy Willard is a picture book that explores the extremes of the crossing the cornfield trope of the road narrative. Tottem is on his way from New York to Minneapolis to visit his friend Bottom. Car trouble results in Tottem having a surreal detour through a never ending cornfield.

Stepping back to British stories of faeries, one knows not to stray from the path, lest one be forever stuck in fairyland. The cornfield, though, is by its very nature off-road. A short cut through the cornfield is only possible for someone who knows the area.

In Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, it's suggested that the cornfield is an alive, sentient, entity, capable of imprisoning the townsfolk, and for those who know how, capable of transporting one to other dimensions.

Nancy Willard combines the cornfield as transport with the threat of being lost in fairyland and takes the result to an outrageous extreme. Tottem ends up both lost and trapped inside the cornfield. His only way to communicate with the outside world is through a magical mailbox that can send postcards to Bottom.

The Magic Cornfield is an epistolary picture book, told through these postcards. At first glance, the return address for each postcard seems like a humorous thematic tie to the scene being illustrated. But if taken literally, one can see that Tottem is being teleported throughout the United States within the bounds of this magic cornfield prison.

The itinerary through the cornfield, mapped onto Google maps

The itinerary through the cornfield, mapped onto Google maps

The itinerary through the cornfield, mapped onto Google maps

Five stars

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