Monday, November 3, 2014

A Snicker of Magic

KEEPER by Kathi Appelt. SAVVY by Ingrid Law. THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage. All three of those novels have one significant thing in common: a charming, lyrical female narrator. (Well, Mibs from SAVVY technically hailed from the midwest, but lyrical and charming all the same.) The prose of those novels is sing-songy and magical and at times, tongue-twisty to read. Newbery committees of recent memory have rewarded all three of these female authors (Appelt for THE UNDERNEATH) for their contributions to the world of children's literature so a fan of Newbery season would be remiss not to include A SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd in Mock Newbery conversations this year. Her novel fits right in with the trio of aforementioned books and it is dripping with the same kind of dreamy lyrical prose.

Felicity's mother has a difficult time staying in one place for too long. Because of this, Felicity has grown accustomed to life-on-the-go and making new friends in school. Something about Midnight Gulch feels like home though, and once Felicity befriends Jonah, "The Beedle," she doesn't want to leave. There's magic in the air and with a town history that draws her in, Felicity finds herself hoping that this is one place her mother won't want to run from again.

The problem with A SNICKER OF MAGIC is that I am not the ideal reader for this book. I understand that that is not really a problem with the book itself at all. Many of my 5th grade girls, who love to live in the clouds, are the ideal readers for this book. Being reminded of Appelt and Law's style of writing, made it really difficult for me to appreciate the language in the book, which I usually do not have a problem with despite not being a member of its ideal audience.

I do think Felicity is an interesting main character though. I can see a lot of 4-6 grade girls loving her voice. She collects words the same way boys collect baseball cards and bugs. The words she collects come from people and places and situations. It's similar to synesthesia in a way. In the following passages, she describes herself and this trait perfectly:

"Here's the thing: I see words everywhere, all around me, all the time. I collect them. I think about them. I say them fine if I'm talking to Mama or Frannie Jo or my aunt Cleo. But words are a mess when I try to say them to more than one person at a time. They melt on my tongue like snowflakes. They disappear right off the edge of my lips, and I end up standing there blinking, openmouthed, like the Queen of Dorkville."


"I might have walked off and left it there if I hadn't looked down and seen so many words spinning around the paper, thin as wire rings around a clay planet. The paper had a noise to it, too. Most words don't sound until they hit the air. But the paper hummed like an electric wire, right up until the second I touched it." 

It's obvious that Lloyd has talent. You can see that in just those few examples. That text would be right at home in Ingrid Law's SAVVY. In fact, I almost picture Lloyd sitting at her computer, typing this story, with a copy of SAVVY open in her lap! 

Which is my biggest problem with the book, personally. The back of the jacket of this book boasts a quote from Natalie Standiford, author of The Secret Tree, calling this book "original." However, I feel as if I've read this story before. Maybe not "this story," but this style of writing. Books with this kind of voice are becoming commonplace in children's literature. 

There is a good story here, regarding the mystery surrounding the town history in Midnight Gulch, and the cast of quirky characters are loveable and fun throughout, but at 311 pages, I found myself looking ahead at the pages left and counting them down until the end. And not in a good way! 

All that being said, based on recent history, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one honored come February.

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