In many ways this book is like another in my collection which I loved as a child (and still do)---The Red Balloon---in that the book consists primarily of photographs. The two books are very similar in other respects as well. Both beautifully capture, in a highly lyrical way, all the whimsy, imagination and free spirit of the child. In both books, the text is minimal; it is the photos that tell the story. In the case of The Magic Shell the photos were taken by the book's author, Nadine Amadio (1929-2009) [pictured below right], with a Rolleiflex camera using Kodak Tri-X film.
In 1976 Ms Amadio received a New Writers Fellowship from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. (To be technical, Ms Amadio was hardly a ‘new writer’ by 1976, for she had already authored and published a few books including Amanda and the Dachshund in 1965 as well as The Magic Shell in 1958.) For many years Ms Amadio collaborated with the distinguished Australian painter and close friend of hers Charles Blackman, my favourite work of theirs being The New Adventures of Alice in Rainforest Land. She published two books about Blackman and his work---Charles Blackman: The Lost Domains and Orpheus, the Song of Forever---and set up the Blackman Trust for his benefit. She was also close to many other prominent Australian artists and put together a book about the celebrated Australian Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira entitled Albert Namatjira: The Life and Work of an Australian Painter. There were several other literary and scholarly works of hers (for example, Pacifica: Myth, Magic and Traditional Wisdom from the South Sea Islands) but I will stop there. Suffice to say she was quite versatile.
The book is no literary masterpiece--it doesn't purport to be---but it does has an unmistakable charm and quaintness. As I re-read the book this morning it occurred to me that Ms Amadio had captured, both in her photos and text, the essence of mindfulness, not to mention the essence of childhood as well. Yes, the author captured that wonderful ability, which we all need, to see things as they really are, to appreciate events and occurrences, and the small things of life, as they are unfolding. Such is the ‘magic’ of life. It is nothing supernatural. It is something very natural---so natural that we take it for granted and fail to see it. The wonder and mystery of life lies in its very ephemerality and transience. The fact that one day we will lose it all---whatever 'it' may be---makes life all that more special.
are from The Magic Shell (Sydney: Ure Smith Pty Limited, 1958).