Just Add Magic Discussion Guide

1. Kelly Quinn loves cooking and she sees the world through the eyes of someone who loves to cook. What are some examples of how she describes things in terms of food and cooking?

  • “Burned my finger like a hot tamale”
  • Compares herself to her friends in terms of their lunches
  • Decorates her locker with a poster
  • Imagines herself as a future chef

1b. Is there a certain lens through which you see the world?

2. Threes or a common theme in JUST ADD MAGIC. The Law of Returns is often referred to as the Law of Three-Fold Returns meaning that something come back to you three-times as bad as what you dished out. Where else do you see threes?

  • Kelly, Hannah and Darbie – Three friends.
  • Three Rusamano bothers – Frankie, Tony and Vinnie
  • Newton’s Third Law is “To every action there is equal and opposite reaction.”
  • Three soccer rules are reviewed at practice.
  • There soccer numbers are all multiples of three, as are the numbers of laps they run.

3. In seventh grade girls change and mature a lot. Describe the maturity of the three main characters.

  • Darbie: Darbie is probably the least mature of the three girls. She isn’t concerned with boys, clothes, or what other people think of her. She loves rollerblading and junk food, and it has no immediate plans to change. This indicates less self awareness, or is she simply more confident in her own shell than the other girls?
  • Kelly: Kelly is mature enough to start her own cooking club. She and about her future. While she notices boys, she is not obsessed with her appearance. For example, she is not anxious to fix her crooked front tooth.
  • Hannah: Hannah is the most anxious to be grown up. She is very aware of her body, her appearance, and boy. It is this anxiousness to grow up fast that is a conflict with Kelly and Darbie.

4. Swirleys are important to the story. Why?

  • Swirleys are the gathering place. The characters gather around a Swirley just to talk and to be together, much like family gather together for a meal. In today’s world many families were too busy for this ritual. I like that the characters I found a place they like to just “hang out” and be together.

5. Discuss how each of the characters grow

  • Kelly – Kelly is responsible for her own actions. The She knows she had something special with the book, and chooses to use it responsibly.
  • Hannah – Hannah is very concerned about her appearance and the opinion of others. By the end of the story she had found that friendship is more important than both. She demonstrates this when she joins Kelly to rake leaves.
  • Darbie – Darbie grows to be aware of others opinions, but is confident enough to do what she wants, look the way she wants, and be friends with him she wants.
  • Senora Perez – Senora Perez let someone in on her secret, one that she had been keeping to herself for a long time, therefore letting someone into her lonely life.
  • Charlotte – Charlotte they learn what real friends do for each other by watching Kelly and her friends, but arguably doesn’t actually change in this story.

6. There are a lot weather changes in Wilmington. What does the rolling in of gray clouds mean?

  •  Something magical is happening. If you look carefully you’ll see that when the magic doesn’t work, it is not preceded by a weather change.


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Here is a sample project that my niece did for school.  The assignment was to fill a bag with things that represented one of the characters.  She did a great job….I know I’m biased, but really, she did.
Just Add Magic
By Cindy Callaghan
Character Traits of Darbie O’Brien
The objects below represent the character traits of Darbie O’Brien:
A JOKE BOOK:because Darbie was witty. “Darbie always liked to add a little bit of jazz to make Hannah’s name sound different.” Like Hannah-Hoobie-Ha Ha and Hannah-Hedi-HoHo.
A ROLLERBLADE:because Darbie was active. “I walked, pooper scooper in hand, while Darbie rollerbladed. She rollerblades pretty much everywhere!”
CRUTCH:because Darbie was very klutzy and always banging into things. “Darbie rollerbladed in the clutter-free areas, careful not to bang her head on the rafters, THUD!”
ANTI-BOOK SIGN:because Darbie is not studious. “Books are “blah” to Darbie. Encyclopedia? “Yuck!” said Darbie and tossed the book like it was a hot tamale.”
PEPPER:because Darbie had freckles all over her body. “I noticed her freckles were dark from her beach tan.”
LION:because Darbie, like the lion, has short brown hair and it was usually messy.
DIFFERENT COLORED POM-POMS:because Darbie was silly, girly, and fun. “Darbie and I looked at each other and did our happy dance by swiveling our hips in a small circle and shifting our bodies from side to side. We sang it’s my birthday, it’s my birthday.”
“Grabbing some chunky pearls and bejewled sunglasses from a hatbox as she rollerbladed by.”
LITTLE PERSON:because Darbie was short. “I am not as short as Darbie but I am shorter than Hannah.”
COOKING SPOON: because like cooking, Darbie is creative and original. “Darbie was always making up catchy words and phrases like junk-arooni, grouch-a-saurus and recipedia. Darbie thought of naming a smoothy after her friend Kelly, The Peanut Butter and Kelly Jelly.”
THE MIRROR:because Darbie is self conscious. “I never mention her freckles out loud. Last time I did she ran over my sandwich.”
SKATEBOARD:because Darbie is not easily discouraged.   Darbie roller bladed everywhere. Throughout the book Darbie was falling down and rollerblading into things. Darbie would always hold onto people and things for support. Even though Darbie bumped into things and fell down often she always got back up. It is almost like learning how to ride a bike or skateboard.
SOCCER BALL:because she is athletic. Darbie is always rollerblading and playing soccer.
BABY BOTTLE:because she is immature. Darbie yelled across the cafeteria “Do you think Tony is cute?!”
WALKING STICK: because walking is not competitive and people do it for themselves. Darbie is also not competitive in her activities like rollerblading, soccer and school work. While the girls were running their soccer warm-up laps, “I noticed Darbie was the caboose.”

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