Monday, 3 February 2014

Review: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd is a 2014 must-read middle grade novel. Sweet, magical, and filled with charming small-town characters, this is a wonderful YA novel for readers ages 8-12.

Summary: Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere — shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears — but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.

Targeted at a female audience, this is a story of fitting in, of finding one's place in the world, and of finding magic and colour in the world. Felicity is a little weird. She's a word-collector and is the new girl in school. Felicity's experience as someone who doesn't quite fit in, and someone whose fears can be crippling make her entirely relatable. More than that, Lloyd's language is loaded with emotion that the reader cathartically experiences.

"Lonely. The word slithered across the cafeteria table, which didn't surprise me at all. Lonely had followed me around for as long as I could remember... But there it was. I'm fairly certain lonely's most natural habitat is a school cafeteria."

Felicitiy's ability to "see" words and to collect them will get readers interested and excited about language. Words are magical and powerful. I love this overarching theme of the power and beauty of words, especially when Felicity strings her collected words together in a poem that ultimately brings magic back to the town. A Snicker of Magic teaches readers that words are a magic of their own, and so are music, friendship, love, and imagination!

Natalie Lloyd blows me away. How beautiful, honest and true to the innocence and vulnerability of a child's mind is the language of this book?:

"My fears were monster big... Fear seems like all the world when it takes hold of me; it's all I dream about, think about, and see. But it was love taking hold of me right then. And love is the whole universe--so wide I cant even see the edges of it. Love if wild and wonderful. Love is blue skies and stardust."

Aside from being a delightful story of friendship, family, and finding yourself, the book is also full of magic! Magic still lingers in the little things, like in the ice cream flavour that brings back memories and emotions you've long forgotten. There's also something fantastical and mythical about the town name itself: Midnight Gulch. Gulch, if you recall, is the name of the woman who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. The name Gulch is evocative of something magical. I would argue that Miss Gulch isn't what she seems, and neither is Midnight Gulch. There's more than meets the eye!

On the downside, this book introduces a large number of characters, which younger readers might find it's hard to keep track of them all. Moreover, the book looks daunting in page length and in hardcover, but the text is extremely accessible and the story is nothing short of wonderful. And regardless of the number of characters and of the number of little story arcs, everything comes together in the end for a splash of magic and colour and warmth that will leave you smiling.

A Snicker of Magic is full of wonder and magic and hope. The writing is beautiful and the story is a breath of fresh air. I've never read anything that compares to this book. Another plus: the many layers of this text make this book a great book to discuss in the classroom!

Natalie Lloyd's debut novel is all kinds of wonderful, inside and out.

5 Stars

A Snicker of Magic will be published on March 1, 2014

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