Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic is one of those delightful books that you want to finish reading because you want to know how it all turns out, and at the very same you don’t want to finish reading because you know you will miss it right away. Here’s the jacket copy blurb:
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.
A Snicker of Magic is as much about magic as it is about family and community and believing in the magic of those bonds. Felicity and the other characters in this book are quirky and lovable, their essential faith in each other is a beautiful thing to read about. Although I was swept into the quest to answer the mystery at the center of this story, what I loved best was the language. Lloyd writes with a rich warmth, and I was entranced by the vividness of many phrases and descriptions – pausing many times to read them over and over again. I book talked A Snicker of Magic in my classroom two weeks ago, and I haven’t seen either copy since. My kids are loving this book!
Another addition to our classroom library has been Cynthia Lord’s Half a Chance. An earlier book, Rules, has been a favorite book club and independent reading selection for years, and I have a feeling that this book will follow a similar path. Here’s the jacket copy:
When Lucy’s family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera’s lens, as her father has taught her; he’s a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he’s judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special, or only good enough.
As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn’t want to see: his grandmother’s memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives…including her own.
Lucy’s relationship with her father is a complicated one – she idolizes him and shares his gift for photography, but she doesn’t believe that he has faith in her gifts. And, he doesn’t make time for her. I think this is a vein in the story that will find particular appeal with my kids, many of whom write and share similar feelings about their own parents and coaches. In the end, Lucy must believe in herself first and be willing to stand up and speak up for herself – which she does, in an entirely believable and satisfying way. Lord also tackles the difficult issue of dementia – Lucy’s neighbor is beginning to show signs of this, and the way in which everyone deals with a painful situation as it slowly emerges and presents itself with force (in a particularity beautifully crafted scene) is sensitive and thoughtful. I book talked this along with A Snicker of Magic, and Half a Chance has suffered the same fate – it’s disappeared into the hands of excited readers. Fabulous!