A Bag Full of Nothing


Written by Jay Williams, Illustrated by Tom O’Sullivan

Parents Magazine Press, 1974

Tip and his father were leaning on the railing of the bridge, looking at the stream.

The plot in a nutshell: A boy believes his empty bag is magical.

Tip’s father tells him a story about magic and wishes that causes Tip to question whether or not magic actually exists. On the way home, Tip finds a paper bag and he tells his father that the bag is full of magic. His father tells him it’s empty, but Tip disagrees. They stop to pick blackberries and Tip can hold more because he has the bag. Once they eat all the berries, the bag is empty again, but Tip still persists that it’s full of magic. He sees a neighbor who likes to pinch children’s cheeks and he places the bag over his head, giving her nothing to pinch. When they pass a house with a big dog who usually barks at him, Tip blows the bag up with air and pops it, scaring the dog into silence. Tip’s father tells him that the bag has had three magical uses, just like in all the stories, so he admits it must be magic. Tip worries that he now has to marry a princess, but his father tells him he can just have some ice cream instead.

Mr. Huff & his dog

It looks like either of these two could start barking at any moment.

Author Jay Williams tells a really good story here and just like Tip, you can find a lot in here if you’re looking for it. There are messages about resourcefulness and finding what you really want within yourself. There are also themes of positivity and faith. Although this is a Parents Magazine Press book, it came along too late for me to have read it during its initial release. A fantastic used book warehouse store recently opened near my house and this was one of awesome finds I picked up in my first visit.

The artwork, from Tom O’Sullivan, adds a really interesting fairy tale ambience to this story. On its own, the story could take place just about anywhere, during any time period. But Tip and his father are winding their way home through a very medieval looking town, complete with lion and unicorn statues, and lots of other other-worldly looking animals. The artwork is very ethereal, with some of the pictures almost looking unfinished on the page. I like the father and son dynamic at work in this story, especially at the end, when Tip’s father assures him that he just needs to live happily ever after until dinner. That’s a short term goal I can get behind.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that magic is most available to those who seek it out.


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