Natalie Lloyd's debut juvenile novel makes my heart sing. In fact, A Snicker of Magic is just "splendiferous". So, thank you to friend and author Kaye Wilkinson Barley for recommending this magical novel. For those of us who love Sarah Addison Allen, Ellery Adams, and, yes, Kaye Wilson Barley as authors, this is an exciting, enchanting debut.
Once upon a time, Midnight Gulch, Tennessee was a place where magic lived. "The people who lived there had magic in their veins." There used to be magic in the secret place, sheltered and hidden by the mountains. But, a duel between brothers was just the start of the drain of magic.
When Felicity Pickle arrived in Midnight Gulch with her mother and younger sister, Frannie Jo, most of the magic was gone. Her mother grew up there, but her wandering heart led her elsewhere. But, Felicity, now in sixth grade, and Frannie Jo, longed to have a place to call home instead of too many "first days" of school, first days in six different states. Those are days that make Felicity nervous, but when Jonah Pickett saw her, he wanted to be a friend. No one had ever reached out to her like that, but Jonah has a gift of know-how. He knows how to fix what's ailing people.
Felicity's gift is words. She's a word collector. Words hang in the air for her, drip and dance with meaning. She writes poems for her sister, but freezes up when she has to talk. Something, though, in Midnight Gulch calls to Felicity. She hangs on every word of the town's magical past. Two brothers had a gift of music that made people dance in the streets. There were people who could call up thunderstorms, and people who could disappear. But, the duel, and loss, ended most of the magic in town. However, Felicity suspects there is still a trace, "a snicker of magic", and she hopes that there's enough to help her conquer her own fears, and enough to settle her mother's restless spirit. Felicity wants Midnight Gulch to have enough magic to become home.
A Snicker of Magic may be a juvenile novel, but the author is wise in the way of human needs and longings. Debut novelist Natalie Lloyd brings Felicity Pickle to life, a wonderful twelve-year-old with a gift that anyone who loves books and words will appreciate. But, Lloyd has her own gift, an ability to bring life to other characters. Felicity's friend, Jonah, is a wonderful character. In fact, all the unusual residents of Midnight Gulch spring to life on the page.
Looking for the next Sarah Addison Allen? Don't overlook A Snicker of Magic because it's a juvenile novel. It's a story in the best tradition of our magical storytellers. It's filled with magic and music, love and loss, loneliness and friendship, and stories. It's just perfect.
Natalie Lloyd's website is www.natalielloyd.blogspot.com
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Scholastic Press. 2014. ISBN 9780545552707 (hardcover), 314p.
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