Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Snicker of Magic - Book review

     When I read this book, I wondered if the author ever took her manuscript to a First Pages session. I imagined the faces of everyone in attendance and the quiet that would have fallen over the room during the reading, followed by the chaos at the end as the editors and agents vied in hand to hand combat to secure the rights to be associated with the project.
     Yes, it's that good.
     As a writer, it simultaneously makes you want to put your pencils away and leave writing to the masters, and inspires you to work that much harder to make your own voice come alive on the page. Because for me, the book wasn't so much about the plot (although that worked too!) as it was about the voice. The glorious voice.

Title: A Snicker of Magic
Author: Natalie Lloyd
Publisher: Scholastic, February 25, 2014
Audience: 8-12
Themes: Home, Confidence, Finding magic in your heart and mind
    "They say all the magic is gone up out of this place," said Mama.

Synopsis: This is a VERY condensed synopsis. No spoilers. If you want to read a more complete synopsis of the book I suggest you head to the reviews already posted on Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly.
Twelve year-old Felicity Juniper Pickle arrives in Midnight Gulch in a broken down van with her mother, younger sister and their dog. Although it's Mom's hometown, there's no logical reason for the connection that Felicity feels for the town. But then this book isn't about logic. It's about magic! And for a girl who has traveled across the country in moves propelled by Mama's wandering heart, the magical feeling of belonging is something worth hanging onto and fighting for.

What I like about this book: The book transported me to Midnight Gulch. The lyrical small-town voice of all the characters brought the town alive. And Felicity's sense of longing was palpable. The magical realism worked especially well because it was interesting, but not essential to the plot. At first, it felt a bit coincidental that a girl who "sees" words around people meets a boy in a wheelchair who "sees" colors in music. But the story teller voice was so strong I found myself saying "why not?" The book explores the possibilities and potentials in places and people. Felicity has had more than a few setbacks in life but at her core she's definitely a glass half-full person. (and if there's magic in ice cream, I'm ready to volunteer for the research!)
     My only gripe? I wish Aunt Cleo wasn't a chain-smoker. Or maybe she could have given the cigs up as part of her transformation. In a book about the power of optimism, the death sticks made my nose wrinkle every time they appeared.
     My favorite quote? There's a lot to like here but this message of empowerment was a winner.
     "Maybe sometimes the words I say are as magical as the words I see."

Resources: Scholastic has an 8 page activity booklet for A Snicker of Magic. I especially like the prompt to invent your own ice cream flavor and name its characteristics!
 Look at photos of strangers and "pretend" you have Felicity's power. What words do you see above them? Start a Beedle club and do an anonymous good deed for someone (or some organization).
If you want to learn more about the author, there's a super interview with Natalie Lloyd on Literary Rambles.

I was fortunate to snag an ARC of this title from Shelf Awareness. My review is based on that uncorrected proof. I was not required to provide a review in exchange for the copy. The opinions in this review are my own.


  1. There's been a number of agents who've said they're interested in magical realism, so I'm interested in reading some more, and this certainly sounds like a book to try. Chain smoking, though, is an odd thing to have in an MG book.

  2. You'll have to let me know what you think! The magical realism is really well done.

  3. OK, now I've gotta go find this. Thanks. (No, really!)