California, the Magic Island

A new picture book from the author-illustrator of Aesop in California

Queen Calafia, the main character of a sixteenth-century Spanish romance about an island overflowing with gold and populated by Amazon-like women, is incensed when she hears that we have adopted her name for our state. Being the good and reasonable queen that she is, she’s willing to hear from twenty-six animals about why California is worthy of her name. But if she decides it isn’t, she’ll launch an army of goddesses riding griffins to wreak her vengeance! Each animal characterizes California in a key cultural object or historical event: for example, the swordfish describes the tomols of the Chumash people, while the gull tells Calafia about the Gold Rush. Large, intricate illustrations display a wealth of research into every subject, rendered with the highest level of artistic skill.

More majestic than most ABC books, California, the Magic Island is a delightful exploration of what makes California worthy of its regal name.




“Vibrant, posterlike pictures...showcase the beauty and wealth of the flora, fauna, and history....readers will certainly want to browse through this generous book, and many will hope that the illustrations might be released as posters. A must in the Golden State; teachers in other states could use it as inspiration for their own mythic histories.”—Kirkus Reviews


“Vibrant, artistic illustrations with intricate details.”—Skipping Stones


“Beautifully crafted and thoroughly engaging.”—Midwest Book Review


“The illustrations are brightly colored, gloriously vibrant images that are nothing short of magical. I spent almost as much time pouring over the illustrations as I did reading the text....This is a beautiful book with a story inventively told.”—The Miss Rumphius Effect


“An imaginative story that readers will return to again and again....Hansen has created a treasure.”—Allison's Book Bag


“From the famous La Brea tar pits to Death Valley to the Pony Express,...the legendary events are fun, enchanting, and absolutely unforgettable. Combine these tales with the most beautiful, detailed pictures you can imagine...and California, the Magic Island quickly becomes one of the few ‘staples’ on your child’s bookshelf. Quill says: You do not need to come from the state of California to enjoy this absolute masterpiece that will thrill and excite both children and parents.”—Amy Lignor, Feathered Quill Book Reviews


“An especially lively way of absorbing a wide range of state history, culture, and insights.”—Donovan's Literary Services


“When it comes down to the beautiful design, the amazing art, and the wonderful writing, you have a truly fun book that will teach as well as entertain. As a parent and teacher there’s nothing more that I would want in a book.”—Chris Delloiacono, Critical Blast


“A great book of fables that any reader is sure to love!”—Mrs. Mommy Booknerd's Book Reviews

About the Author

Doug HansenDoug Hansen was born in Fresno, California, and is the eldest of six children in an artistic family. Doug has worked as a Fresno Bee newsroom artist, freelance illustrator, and cartoonist, and he illustrated David Mas Masumoto’s books Letters to the Valley: A Harvest of Memories and Heirlooms: Letters from a Peach Farmer, as well as Mother Goose in California and Aesop in California. He teaches rendering and illustration at his alma mater, California State University, Fresno. Visit his website at

Self-portrait by Doug Hansen