After reading Carrie’s review of Natalie Lloyd’s debut novel, A Snicker of Magic, I added it to my mental TBR list and was pleasantly surprised when it appeared on the new books table at one of our libraries. Then it languished in our library bin at home until I finally promised one of my girls I’d read it before (maybe) handing it off to her to read. I’m really glad I finally pulled myself out of my think-think-think mode I’m in this summer to enjoy this bit of fiction. A Snicker of Magic is the story of Felicity Pickle, a twelve year old girl who temporarily settles with her mom and sister in her mother’s hometown of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee. Midnight Gulch is no normal town–rumor has it that it used to be a magical place. Now all that’s left is a snicker–just a little bit–of magic: enough that some of its residents can do unusual things, like make ice cream that doesn’t melt and one particular flavor that helps the eater recall memories, both good and bad. Felicity herself has the unusual ability to see words. She’s a word collector, always writing in her blue notebook the words she sees spinning and shimmering in the air. The real magic in town, though, comes from the Beedle, an anonymous do-gooder who’s been up to his or her RAKs for fifty years. The magic in town goes way back to a couple of brothers–Stone and Berry Weatherly–who had a gift of magic but quarreled, and nothing has been the same since. The story is something of a mystery in which Felicity and her best friend Jonah Pickett have to figure out a way to break a curse that has plagued the Weatherly descendents and a way to make Felicity’s mother, forever cursed with wanderlust, settle down in Midnight Gulch.
This book is nearly perfect–a sweet confection of wordsmithery, magic, and do-gooding, with a completely satisfying ending. If it has a weakness, it’s that Felicity’s voice is a wee bit too innocent for a twelve year old sixth grader who has moved repeatedly, but really, in my book that’s a check-mark for the plus column. (Her voice reminds me a bit of India Opal Buloni’s in Because of Winn Dixie.) Here’s one of Felicity’s observations:
The way he said her name made my heart cramp. In all my years of word collecting, I’ve learned this to be a tried and true fact: I can often tell how much a person loves another person by the way they say their name. I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world, when you know your name is safe in another person’s mouth. When you know they’ll never shout it out like a cuss word, but say it or whisper it like a once-upon-a-time. (86)
This book is like a bunch of self-help slogans–Think Positively! Accept the Past and Move On! Love Makes the World Go ‘Round!–all wrapped up in a very winsome package. I won’t be a bit surprised if this one snags a few honors. Check out Natalie Lloyd’s website; her voice on her blog is very similar in tone to the book. (Scholastic, 2014)