There are those books even as you are reading them, you know without a doubt you want to read them again. The aura in which you were enveloped as you turn each page, even when you are finished, stays with you weeks and months later. Words coined by the author insert themselves into your daily vocabulary, more descriptive somehow than others. Using these words not only expresses more eloquently how you feel in a given situation, but brings back the essence of the book.
These books reveal themselves to you sometimes as early as the dedication page. When I read this dedication,
FOR MOM, DAD,
BRIDGETT, AND CHASE
I LOVE YOU MORE
THAN ALL THE WORDS
IN THE WORLD.
I realized without reading a single sentence this author loves using language; this author uses words like a composer uses notes to create sensational sounds. This book was going to sing its way right into my heart. And it did. A Snicker of Magic (Scholastic Press, February 25, 2014) a first novel by author Natalie Lloyd is a book to relish, savoring every single page.
"They say all the magic is gone up out of this place," said Mama.
She looked straight ahead as she drove, past the white beam of our headlights, deep into the night, like she could see exactly what was up ahead of us. I couldn't see anything, though: not a house, not a store, not even an old barking dog. A big fat moon, pale white and lonesome looking, was our only streetlight.
Felicity Juniper Pickle, her younger sister Frannie Jo, their dog Biscuit and her mama are arriving in the town of Midnight Gulch. The two girls are hoping their mama will stay put here for a spell; they've been in six different states. Another first day of school, this time at Stoneberry Elementary, has them both a little on edge. To ease Frannie Jo's jitters, Felicity catches a poem for her, reciting it aloud as they walk down the hallway the next morning.
What you have to understand is Felicity can literally see words in the most glorious colors and shapes around people and things; out of thin air. No one else has this gift as far as she knows. She is a collector of words; gifted and unique. This ability gives her insight into people and their actions.
On that first day Miss Divinity Lawson, Felicity's homeroom teacher, tells a powerful story about a magical duel between the Weatherly brothers, Stone and Berry. To commemorate this face-off, which has a less than happy ending for everyone, she announces a new duel, a sharing of talent, on September 15. A cryptic note leads Felicity to a new friend, Jonah Pickett, a boy in her class with his own particular powers and a secret identity.
Midnight Gulch holds wonders other than people with uncommon understandings. It's home to Dr. Zook's Ice Cream, forty-five scrumptious flavors, with an exceedingly special one called Blackberry Sunrise. Made with wild blackberries grown near Snapdragon Pond this delight can stir up peoples' memories, happy and sad. You'll never guess who the current owner of the ice cream company is either but that's part of the pleasure of reading this story, everything and everyone are linked together by the mystery and the magic.
A cast of lovable but extraordinary characters people the pages; Holly, Felicity's wandering mother, filled with sadness and the ability to create beautiful paintings, Cleo, Felicity's aunt, giver of sage, no-nonsense advice and maker of quilts, Day Grissom, school bus driver who gave his heart away many years ago, Boone, Felicity's musician uncle, recently returned home, Florentine, a weaver of stories and a keeper of history, Jonah's mom, owner of Jewell Pickett's Lube & Dye (Can you believe it? She has a beauty salon and a car shop.), Ponder Waller, maker of pie's not only tasting good but with marvelous qualities, Rosie Walker, guitar-playing singer, Virgil the weatherman, who's always right and the woman who loved and was loved in return by the two brothers. There is also a tattoo appearing and disappearing on people, a curse, bundled burdens and a search for a perfect memory. Most important of all there is love, an abundance of love.
Felicity and Jonah, their friendship growing ever stronger, work diligently toward seeking solutions, finding connections and awakening the remarkable possibilities just under the surface in Midnight Gulch. Time is running out. Will a snicker of magic be enough?
I believe Natalie Lloyd has more than a snicker of magic coursing through her being; yes indeed. This woman has a heart beating to the same pulse as word weavers, tellers of tales, and those bringing stories to people back for generations deeply rooted in the oral tradition. Her portrayals of people, places and events are breathtaking. As a reader you find yourself constantly and consistently pausing to close your eyes picturing in your mind's eye what you have read.
Her characters, each and every one, main and secondary all play an important part in the intricate workings of her narrative. Conversations ring true to the traits of each. Our world needs more people like Felicity Juniper Pickle willing to work the magic of their particular gift so others may find their true happiness; a sense of belonging found in home and family. Here are three of thirty passages I have marked in my book.
Mama's fingers clutched knuckle-white around the steering wheel again. But she kept on telling:
"They could play a song and it would echo through the whole town, and everybody in town, no matter where they were stood up and danced."
She cleared her throat. "They say some people glowed in the dark. And some people faded when they were sad---first they went colorless, then totally invisible. There are so many stories..."
"And this magic town is the same town where you grew up?" I asked.
"Then why the hayseed would you ever leave a place like that?"
Desks squeaked and popped as people leaned up in their seats, trying to get as close as they could to the story Miss Lawson was telling. If the right person tells a story, I guess it doesn't matter how many times you've heard it. Your heart still hears it brand-new. And Miss Lawson was an A+ storyteller.
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 very 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.
If you haven't read A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd read it...read it now. If you've already read it, read it again. I did today. When I finished it tears came to my eyes because of the sheer beauty of the telling. It's a very important book destined to be a classic.
Please follow the link embedded in Natalie Lloyd's name to her blog. The links here and here take you to Scholastic's dedicated pages for this title. This link is to educator, Beth Shaum's blog, A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust, where she interviews Natalie Lloyd.