We just closed out our second Scholastic Book Fair for the year, and as always, I discovered a wonderful surprise on the shelves. Actually, I can't take credit for it, it was Lauren, a 5th grade super reader and Newbery Club member. She brought A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd to the counter to purchase because it reminded her of books by another of her favorite authors, Wendy Mass. I read the back and some reviews on line and decided it was a must read for me too. I wasn't disappointed!
Felicity Juniper Pickle, her sister Frannie and their mom don't stay in one place too long. Their mother has the urge to roam. She paints murals for towns and this allows her to travel a lot. Felicity doesn't enjoy the life style and longs for a home. The story begins with them returning to Midnight Gulch, TN, the town where Mom grew up. It's the home of Aunt Cleo who gives them a place to stay. That's where the magic of this book begins.
Midnight Gulch used to be magical, people could make themselves disappear, bake secrets into pies and sing down the rain. Now, though, the magic seems to be missing, or at least not so powerful, there is just a snicker of magic left. Felicity believes that if she can solve the mystery of what happened to the magic, her mom will want to stay and their traveling days will be over. With the help of her friend Jonah, they begin investigating the mystery. Using Jonah's knowledge of the town history and the people who live there and Felicity's power to see and collect words, Natalie Lloyd weaves a wonderful tale.
The characters all wind around each other, just like in any small town, everyone knows everyone else's business and everyone is related to someone in the town. The story just keeps weaving in and out with twists and surprises in each chapter. Natalie Lloyd's creative use of language and detail is simply amazing. I found myself wanting to highlight lines and phrases because of the artistic beauty of the words she put together. In addition to the words she chooses, Natalie Lloyd's characters form one of the best book casts I've read in a long time. Her characters came to life for me, and as I read it, I heard their voices in my head, just like when I find a great read aloud picture book. Natalie Lloyd is an artist who puts her reader right in the middle of Midnight Gulch, TN with the mountains surrounding them.
I'm recommending A Snicker of Magic to all of my 4th and 5th graders and to any teacher who is looking for a great class read aloud, or just a book to enjoy for themselves. I love this book!