Introducing an extraordinary new voice---a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing. 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.
In which I become the Grinch Who Pooh-Poohs All Things Magical.
This book is currently #1 on Goodreads' Mock Newbery page. Friends, I just don't get it. I must have read a different book. Or my definition of 'distinguished' is waaaaaay different than that of the hoi polloi.
I've been a children's and young adult librarian for seven years now, and there are a few tiresome tropes that have been sneaking their way into kiddie lit over the past few years. In what is a feat of unimaginable magnitude, Natalie Lloyd has managed to smoosh every trope I despise into a single book. She veritably smothers the reader with them.
Trope That Makes Me Apoplectic #1: Characters With Idiotic Names.
Narrator: Felicity Juniper Pickle. Felicity.Juniper.PICKLE. I mean... come on.
Teacher: Miss Divinity Lawson!
Bus Driver: Day Grissom!
The Legends of the Town: Stone and Berry Weatherly!
The Kinda Antagonist Who Never Really Does Much: Toast Terry!
The Drifter: Florentine!
As a bonus, the protagonist's mother drives a van that the family calls the Pickled Jalapeño. Because why not.
And one family lives on Chicken Bristle Lane.
Trope That Makes Me Apoplectic #2: Quirky Southern Town.
I think Sheila Turnage's Three Times Lucky really hammered this nail into the coffin for me. But here comes A Snicker of Magic with an even quirkier town populated by [see TTMMA#1]. There's the guy who just sings Elvis songs on the corner. There's the lady who owns a beauty shop that also doubles as an auto shop (OF COURSE). There's the old lady who became a country star when she was in her late 50s. There's the banjo-pickin' uncle who just shows up one day. It's all here, folks. More quirky characters than you can count. And just when you think you've met everyone in Midnight Gulch, Lloyd manages to introduce 72 more. Honestly, you need a town directory to wade through the volumes of characters taking up breathing room.
Trope That Makes Me Apoplectic #3: Wanderin' Mama/Papa. I've taught in public education for 15 years. There are definitely tons of crappy parents out there. But kiddie lit has suddenly become uber-obsessed with the wayward, neglectful mother/father. Pack the kids up! Move to a new town! Changed my mind: it's rainin'! Let's go somewhere else! Felicity's mother especially likes to move her kids on the 7th day of the month... but only if it's raining. This leads me to...
Trope That Makes Me Apoplectic #4: Precious Quotient.
The precious quotient in this book is through the roof. Just looking at the quirky characters' names and actions is enough proof for that pudding, but here are a few more examples:
1.Ice cream that doesn't melt (so you can eat it all the time!!!!!).
2. A protagonist who "sees" words
Just hanging Like this Hockey puck Forlorn b e n e f i c i a l Marmalade Idiotic
3. An aunt who makes fairy wings for everyone in the family to wear while they hang out at Snapdragon Pond.
4. The word "spindiddly" used by the protagonist to describe everything. Literally everything. Like, five to ten times a chapter. That rocking chair over there? Spindiddly. Grandma's gooseberry pie? Spindiddly. The idea you just had? Spindiddly. That spider on a web? Kinda spindiddly. But it has 8 legs - and it spins a web! Okay, definitely spindiddly.
I am not being even remotely hyperbolic.
If Natalie Lloyd had replaced 'spindiddly' with the word 'great' or 'good' or even 'awesome', any editor in his right mind would be like, "Listen, Nat, you gotta find some more adjectives."
But not this editor! "Hey, Natalie... can you throw in about 4,309 more 'spindiddlies' in this paragraph? It's just not spindiddly enough!"
Trope That Makes Me Apoplectic #5: The Power of Story.
I teach a graduate course in storytelling. I do not need to be convinced of the magic of a great story nor of the charisma of a storyteller who exceeds at his/her craft. The art of storytelling is in a renaissance (thanks, Moth & StoryCorps!), but the number of children's lit books that have characters begging for a story is inching toward the million mark by now.
It is one thing if the embedded stories are wrangled with finesse and beauty. But A Snicker of Magic's treatment is accomplished with all the subtlety of clown wielding a seltzer bottle. At one point, there is a gaggle of characters in the beauty/auto shop, and in comes Oliver Weatherly with gallons of ice cream that he hands out so that everyone can enjoy some snacks while he tells a story. The story: the history of the town. The audience: people who live in that very town. Forgive me if I just can't wrap my head around the inanity of that.
A drifter wanders into town. Yup: she's got a story. And Felicity begs to hear it. Aunt Cleo? Story. Ramblin' Rosie? Story. Oliver: Another story!
Hey, authors! Want to illustrate the power of story? Do it with grace and, for god's sake, some substance. For reference: Moon Over Manifest. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Habibi. Walk Two Moons. A Monster Calls. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Use those as your guides. Don't have a character slap his knee and bellow, "I gots me a story my gran'pappy told me, but y'all gonna have to beg for it first!"
Which A Snicker of Magic almost did.
Because nearly every page managed to somehow tip my Apoplexy Scale to 10.
So help me god if this nabs a Newbery Medal or Honor.
Felicity is an intense happiness, a particular kind of joy….a wondrous joy, and the most fitting name for the charismatic main character of this happy, hopeful little tale. Having accepted the gypsy life-style as her mural-painting mom carries her and her young sister Frannie across the country; Felicity was surprised by the tug she felt entering Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, “A Proper Place to Call Home”. Granted, she knew this was her mother’s home and that they’d be bunking with her mother’s siblings, but it was more than that.
While most townsfolk will say that Midnight Gulch “used to be” a magical place, a few insist that a snicker of magic remains. A century-old curse holds that leftover magic dormant, until the riddle that evoked it has been solved. That snicker gently tugs at Felicity, seemingly soliciting her assistance. As she is inexplicably smitten and eager to bring back the Rain Conjurers, Shadow Catchers and families that could turn themselves invisible or bake secrets into pies, that made sense.
The splendiferous town captivated Felicity, but The Beedle mesmerized her. For half of a century, the anonymous do-gooder was a local hero, covering payments when someone fell behind, lifting spirits with kindness and spreading good-will. When The Beedle reveals himself to her, an immediate friendship is formed. Awe-struck and amazed by all of his good deeds, Felicity feels timid because her only talent is “catching poems”.
As some folks see auras, Felicity sees words. Whirling around, captured in thought bubbles, jumbled on top of one and other; she collects the most appealing ones, just as someone else may collect marbles or baseball cards. Ironically, the very thing she treasures the most, stays stuck inside of her. When she opens her mouth to speak, her cherished words betray her. Not with Beedle, and certainly not when Uncle Jonah played his banjo, but still often enough for apprehension to envelop her.
Joy is quickly replaced by concern. Felicity spots the signs that warn: her wandering mother isn’t keen on staying. Desperate to establish roots, Felicity resolves to solve the riddle, unleash the magic and make a permanent home. Not just because she feels happy here; but her tiny family, Florentine with her bag of burdens ….every single person and the community as a whole, would benefit greatly. With the sweetest intentions and commendable selflessness, Felicity is utterly inspiring.
Ms. Lloyd perfectly placed the irresistible Felicity as our narrator and in doing so, gleefully snatches the reader from reality straight into the heart of Midnight Gulch. The faint tinkling of wind-chimes will tease, a whiff of sugar wind tantalizes and the bluegrass music taps toes. Reading A Snicker of Magic is like visiting the grooviest small town you can think of…..noshing local delicacies, dancing “free as a mountain girl”, and discovering a secret….and my favorite part: “It’s possible to have a happy ending, even if the ending isn’t what you imagined.”
While this book is appropriate for and certainly appealing to third/fourth grade readers, it would be more than a disservice to limit the audience. I can’t imagine the reader (regardless of his age) that wouldn’t find this delightful, inspiring story worthy.
This review was written for Buried Under Books Blog.
This book kept calling to me so much that I just had to read it. I read it in one sitting and found myself wanting to underline whole paragraphs on various pages to share later. If I had been with someone at the time, I likely would have read them aloud.
A Snicker of Magic is Natalie Lloyd's debut novel and she has created a story that grabs readers and won't let go. The language is beautiful and pitch perfect for the story. I need to note that I heard Lloyd speak and I kept hearing her voice throughout the book. Readers will laugh, and worry, and cry along with Felicity and the rest of the gang in Midnight Gulch and it has the perfect ending. I can't wait to share this one with kids.
This story is magical the whole way through. Felicity Pickle is a delightful narrator and the descriptions of Midnight Gulch and the yummy ice cream make me want to go there for a visit. The words she collects are prophetic at times and help her to grow and learn about others. There are wonderful depictions of neighbors helping one another and seeking to understand, accept and bring healing. Such a lovable bunch!
Foolish heart who fought and failed, Where talent bloomed, your greed prevailed, Cursed to toil, till labor-worn, You'll spin up ashes, you'll harvest thorns.
Now pack your dreams, make haste, take flight, You're cursed to wander through the night, Till cords align, and all's made right. Where sweet amends are made and spoken, Shadows dance, the curse is broken.
Would make a popular classroom read aloud for 4th - 6th grade students. This was my first read by Natalie Lloyd and made me a fan of her work.
Felicity Pickle has lived in 6 different states even though she's only in the 6th grade. She's tired of travelling the country with her mama, Holly, and her little 6-year-old sister, Frannie Jo.
Maybe people can't grow roots the same as trees do, but we both needed a place to dig in and grow some good memories. And so did Mama.
The only problem is that Mama has a wandering heart. She's always been this way - restless, ready to leave town at the slightest provocation. She can't stay still and she can't settle down. This is making her children very unhappy.
Finally Mama returns to the town she grew up in, the town where her sister Cleopatra still resides. The magical town of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee.
After going to school for her first day in her new town, Felicity learns about the history of the magical town, where each family had their own special brand of magic.
They say some people could catch stars in Mason jars. And some people could sing up thunderstorms and some could dance up sunflowers. Some people could bake magic into a pie, make folks fall in love, or remember something good, or forget something bad. Some people had a a magic for music. 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. They say some people glowed in the dark. And some people faded when they were sad - first they went colorless, then totally invisible.
But then tragedy struck when the Brothers Threadbare, Stone and Berry, became famous due to their musical magic. After years of happily travelling together and acquiring fame and fortune, jealousy struck. And so the brothers agreed to battle each other in an epic magical duel. But whoever lost would be cursed with a wandering heart - unable to settle in any one place for any length of time, and therefore unable to ever be happy again. That cursed one was Stone, and after he left town he was never seen again.
Or was he?
Felicity knows that since she is a direct descendant of Stone's bloodline, she and her family are cursed as he was. That is why her mother can never stay in one place for long. That is why she and her sister have been travelling from town to town incessantly since they were born.
But Felicity loves the magical and kooky town of Midnight Gulch. She loves its history and its people. And she also is starting to have strong feelings for a boy she met on her first day in class, a boy who takes her breath away, a boy with spiky blonde hair and a big heart. Jonah Pickett.
Jonah's face was so close to mine that I could count the small cluster of freckles across his nose. Ten freckles, that's all. Just a small constellation. His eyes looked even greener up close.
Felicity is determined to buy more time in the town, and (hope against hope) convince her wayward mother to stay. But how can she do this?
Felicity has a gift.
And I like words; I collect them. I like poems, songs, stories... everything. But words never sound right when I try to string them together and say them out loud. They're just for me to keep. I've always seen words. I see them as clearly as I see you. Sometimes they have wings and sometimes tap shoes and sometimes zebra stripes. Sometimes I see words hovering around people. Most people, anyway. The more interesting the person, the more fantastic the words. Words come in all sorts of shapes: stars, spaceships, pretzel words. Some words glow and some words dance. Sometimes I think I see words people are thinking about, or the words they want.
Felicity's ability to see words helps her read minds and see the future. Can she use this power to help her mother finally settle down and call somewhere 'home?' ...
This book is amazing, magical. It's also very Southern, as in Tennessee-Kentucky type Southern, you know - mountain Southern. If you're familiar with that area, you know what I mean.
Everyone has fun names like Toast, Florentine, Cleopatra, Boone, Day, and Ponder.
They all have highly diluted remnants of magic - a snicker of magic, as Felicity would say. This gives some people a slight ability. It's wonderful to read about people's small magical skills that were much stronger generations ago. An example would be how Charlie Sue's ancestors had the ability to turn invisible, but Charlie Sue cannot turn invisible. However, you can never get a photograph of her - she only appears as a blur on film. That's just one example of what is going on in the book.
The writing is beautiful, whimsical, and vivid.
As soon as Jonah said their name, the same wondrous feelings came rushing up inside me: the kick-thump of my heart and the catch of my breath. I tried to rub away the tingly sensations rolling up and down my arms. It seems as if the air all around me was full of static electricity.
Mama wasn't looking at me. She had her face turned toward the light of the window. The sun was doing its best to shine on her, to warm up all the cold places down in her heart. ...
It's a wonderful book, I would highly recommend it. It's aimed at middle-schoolers, but that never stopped me from enjoying a truly good book. I soaked up every word. I'll leave you with my favorite quote:
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.
Swoon! Lloyd certainly has an amazing way with words. :)
When you read a lot, you're looking for new books that surprise and delight you. A Snicker of Magic is charming and extraordinary because Natalie Lloyd's personality shines through every page.
I don't think the book is perfect--the plot threatens to spiral out of control and I could barely keep track of the staggering cast of characters, but Ms. Lloyd brings it together at the end for a satisfying conclusion.
Look for more from this debut author. She's the real deal. A remarkable fresh talent.
This is such a visual book. Throughout the story I kept imagining what a wonderful movie it would be. This remote town is filled with eclectic characters. Each of them have a bit if magic in their lineage. Our heroine sees words. When someone is talking the words they don’t say will escape from their ears or float around their heads. This is a lovely YA novel that is safe for children to read. No violence or hints of sex. Just a sweet story of home, friendship, family and just a touch of magic.
Please read this spindiddly book. Here is what is so factofabulous about it.....The enchanting characters in this book made my heart sing out. Yes. Yes. yes! I adore this book. I hope you will read it and feel the same way. I truly believe it is magical.
A Snicker of Magic won my heart. I mean my whole beating reading heart! This story has word magic like I have never seen or heard before. It blew me away! And to add shock on top of awe—this is Natalie Lloyd’s debut! I’m in jaw-dropping, gasping awe over here! Okay, okay let me try to reel in my tongue, string a few words together and try to make sense out of all the love in my head and heart right now.
This is a tale about the magic of words and stories. And the power they hold to heal, hurt, and whip up a heap load of trouble and fun! So lean in close, Natalie Lloyd spins a “weirdly-wonderful” story packed with family, love, sweetness, and magic you have to hear. Hear, feel, and take to heart.
Felicity Pickle along with her Mama, sister, and cute as button dog wander and roam from place to place. Constantly stirring. Constantly searching for the next great place, adventure, and inspiration. Young Felicity is ready to stop, plant some roots, and find some friends though. So Felicity is hoping Midnight Gulch has the cure to her Mama’s wandering heart. Midnight Gulch, Tennessee used to be a magical place. A place people wanted to stay put, raise some memories, and call home. Tales of family curses, banjo music, dueling magicians, ice cream, and love pepper the town’s history. But is the magic all used up? With a little help from a full cast of crazy characters and storytellers, Felicity Pickle is going to find out. Maybe, just maybe Midnight Gulch has a snicker or two of magic left over to help Felicity and her family settle down, face fears, and break an old family curse. So cross your fingers, open your ears and hearts and hold on…this story is a doozy!
Before I go on though, I have to spit out some huge love for the words in this story. Felicity is a word collector. She sees words in the air and all around with color and action. They flip, slide, and float. And boy-o-boy does Natalie Lloyd give Felicity a full palette of words to savor, collect, and paint pictures and poems with. Beautiful words. Natalie Lloyd is a word magician. She conjures up old, new, light, and weighty words and then makes them her own. She combines and cuts words to create new word-wonders. Words to shout, sing, and shimmy about with! Words to inspire new words. Words to believe in.
These are just a few of my favorites…
Clatter, slither, and dash-away. Boundless, gargantuan, and humdinger. Fizz, flutter, and floozy. Lickety-split quick Pumpernickel and plumb adorable Swankified Wonderstruck Hope and family.
Phew…Sorry I went on a word tangent there. :) Back on track…
I can’t possibly pick just one favorite aspect or character in this tale. Sooo I’m going to gush about the whole tooting town. Streets to dance down. Trees to climb. Music to hum. Magical ice cream to melt in your mouth and remember. So many stories, hearts, and memories tucked away in this wacky mountain town. A town filled with people who care, look out for each other and share. Share stories and history with each other. They are each other’s history. All the families are so wrapped up in each other. It’s a beautiful warm, welcoming feeling to experience. Every single character tickled my funny bone, piqued my curiosity, and made me smile. BUT Jonah Pickett came close to stealing the show. Oh, sweet boy! I wish there were more Jonah Picketts in print and the world. A do-gooder with a heart and smile so sweet and pure it will make you aww, fall and wish for a friend just like him.
”Jonah Pickett was like snow days, field trips, candy stores, and Christmas Eve all blended into one big swoosh of a feeling.”
Jonah has a secret or two of his own though. Dagnamit everyone in town has a secret, dream and story to tell! Come on! You have to visit Midnight Gulch for the people, stories, and ice cream. There is so much love wrapped up in Midnight Gulch. And music! Okay—Boone is another show stopping scene stealer! Haha….There are too many to point out. But Boone and his banjo made a wonderful toe-tapping addition to the family. I’ve shouted this fact out loud and clear around the GR block, but once more can’t hurt—a word-magic and music mix makes my heart and soul happy. So very happy!
I’ve said too much and not enough. This is a story to read again and again to catch a different word, beat, and tone each and every time.
A Snicker of Magic reminded me that families can mend. With love, forgiveness, and magic we can all mend. I just have to remember to be brave. Say the words out loud. And LOVE.
I did not love this book. I should have loved this book. It's a primer to magical realism, getting young readers ready for Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, Suzanne Palmieri, and the like. It's got sisters, magic, funky aunts, a nifty little town, quirky characters, an ice cream factory, a mysterious benefactor, a curse, a dog, the love of words and all the other things that go together to create a fun, magical, wonderful story.
And yet, I did not love it at all.
I hope that the intended age group enjoys this story. I want it to be a special book, a beloved book, the kind of book that changes a child's viewpoints if only just a little.
Unfortunately, even had I read this as a 10-year-old, I wouldn't have liked it. I could feel the kid in me being pissed off at not being able to engage with the tale. I didn't like the main character, I couldn't trust her. She was always giving out information that would have been nice to have known chapters in advance...like when she freaked out over sevens and storms. It was so sudden, so unexpected, and that made it unbelievable. Why are we just finding this out now? Why wasn't it part of the beginning? There were several instances of just-in-time information which is great in some stories but it didn't work for me in this one. I didn't care about the mom and her mystery or the greater mystery about the town. I didn't care about quirky Aunt Cleo. Or the bus driver. Or the BFF with the big secret. Or about the ten billion characters who kept showing up. Why were new characters introduced after the halfway point? This isn't Game of Thrones. We shouldn't have to keep track of so many names!
The floating words. It's such a neat idea. I couldn't stand it, though, and I especially hated "spindiddly" (I think another reviewer summed that up nicely with a Samuel L. meme) It rubbed me the wrong way for reasons unknown. Ditto the Yes Yes Yes all through the book. Maybe I found it all too gimmicky? Maybe I thought it was trying too hard, doing too much, being too disingenuous? I'm not sure but it bothered me a lot.
Regardless of my nearly violent distaste for this story, I recognize it's got a good base. The idea is fun, the plot moves along as it should (mostly), and it's fast. It's all a great package for an enchanting tale. Again, I really hope this does well with its intended audience because I want kids to love this book even if I could not.
Felicity Pickle travels the country with her mother and little sister, never staying in one place for long. Her mother is cursed with a wandering heart, but the girls are used to it. Felicity is always on the watch for signs that her mother's read to head somewhere new and her sister carries a suitcase filled with her most precious possessions everywhere she goes. As the Pickle women roll into Midnight Gulch, the town where Felicity's mama grew up, Felicity considers the stories she's heard about the small town... stories that tell of Midnight Gulch as a town once filled with happy families gifted with magical abilities, now cursed. Her mother tells her that Midnight Gulch has lost it's magic, but Felicity isn't so sure.
Felicity is a "word collector." She sees words sparkling and curling and darting through the air and hovering over family, friends, and strangers. She's collected most words you can imagine - and even some you can't - in her special notebook, but, in Midnight Gulch, Felicity is seeing words she's never seen before, like "home" and "friend." And, for maybe the first time, Felicity comes to dread the signs that her mother's wandering heart is yearning for adventure.
With the help of Jonah, a new friend that has a few magical secrets of his own, Felicity begins to unravel the curse of the mysterious Brothers Threadbare, the curse that drained Midnight Gulch of its magic.
A SNICKER OF MAGIC is an exuberant story populated with magical deeds, memorable characters, and inspiring lessons of friendship, family, and hope.
There are so many things to love about A SNICKER OF MAGIC.
First, the wonderful, magical ability of Felicity Pickle to see words. Natalie Lloyd describes the words that Felicity collects as they appear in the world around her, giving them a life of their own. I spent much of the book looking forward to which words Felicity would see next... and what they'd be doing as she collected them with dedication and care.
Second, the curious town of Midnight Gulch, with it's gifted - both magically and otherwise - inhabitants. Even cursed, the people of Midnight Gulch sparkle with life and love. Though it's hard to choose a favorite from the cast of characters, I do have a soft spot for Felicity's friend Jonah. This boy always of others; he is always giving to others and finding ways to spread happiness. Jonah is an inspiration for many reasons, one of which readers might often forget: Jonah is wheelchair-bound. But perhaps "bound" is the wrong word, because Jonah never seems held back in anyway. Though Jonah has wheels instead of legs, Lloyd doesn't linger on this detail, and readers will never see him as less than a wonderful, inspiring boy from Midnight Gulch.
And last, but not least, the intensely quotable nature of this novel. I could barely read a handful of pages without jotting down and bookmarking a line or passage that I loved. Natalie Lloyd, much like Felicity, has a gift driven by the magic of words and her writing shines!
“I made a big show of catching invisible words in my hands and putting them in my mouth and chewing on them. I knew my word-catching charade wasn't the best way to make a fast friend at Stoneberry Elementary School. But it was the only way I could think of to make my sister feel better. And I think if you're lucky, a sister is the same as a friend, but better. A sister is like a super-forever-infinity friend.” -- from A Snicker of Magic
I suspect this is one of those books that can fall sharply either side of the divide between actual young readers and young teens, the latter of whom often cross that invisible line into skepticism and wariness, even scorn. In fact, I could see myself at thirteen thinking, what boy would ever say "Spindiddly" out loud, except in sarcasm? But at age ten? I would have thought it absolutely wonderful.
At age ten I would have adored Felicity Pickle for her weirdnesses, her anxieties battling her desire to capture and hold all the little beauties she sees during her day. Felicity captures words the way other characters express themselves in music, or in other ways. It's a book for synesthetes as well as those who might have broken families, who are looking for roots but not finding them as Felicity, her too-small little sister, and her restless, wandering mother return home to the town of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, where magic used to happen.
The magic is whimsical, and I suspect it, like the constant ice cream diet the characters all seem to consume, might push an older reader into sugar shock, unless you really like whimsy. I like it when it makes emotional sense (which Alice in Wonderland never did for me, for example; I read it at ten, and it seemed a long exercise in pointless anxiety, like a fever dream). As we meet various characters in the story, the past and present get bound up with a riddle and a curse that Felicity must solve before the town can be happy again. When you're ten, of course a middle school kid can be that important, even if at fourteen one might roll one's eyes.
But emotional sense grounds the tendency toward treacle here, at least for me. Here are some quotes:
"I don't like how stories always end with folks riding off into a sunset," Mama said. "I've never cared for that. I'd rather ride all the way to the end and see that there's a sunrise still waiting for me. Morning in my eyes, stars at my back."
"Do you have a crush on him?"
"Not a crush." I shook my head. "He makes me feel the opposite of crushed. More like an inflate. . ."
"I know when it's time to bow out," Rosie said. "But I'll tell y'all this: The Ryman is sacred. And the Ryman is wild. And when you find a place like that in the world, a place that is wild and sacred, you should treasure it."
She told stories in a way that I swear my heart heard before my ears did.
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 can see myself at age ten checking this book out of the library until the pieces came loose from the binding, because under the razzle-dazzle magic, and the preciousness here and there, it resonates with appreciation for good things--the little moments--of real life. That's magical right there.
See Three Times Lucky. See The Higher Power of Lucky. See most books by Polly Horvath. See anything in this genre for further examples of charming small towns, quaint and overly decorative language, earnest blabbering about Love and Family and Hopes and Wishes and Dreams, and main characters who aren't really young people, they are how some writerly adults imagine and wish young people would be.
See me gagging.
So OK clearly this genre is like wintergreen to me. I can see that Lloyd is not-awful at putting a book together (except somebody needed to edit this mofo by at least 15%) but I am not the reader who will appreciate her accomplishments. Someone else will. Lots of others have. Kirkus Reviews loved it, and they--as Kwame Alexander memorably put it--don't even like books.
If readers seem to like the Touching genre, I will happily recommend this book. It's got a fine imagination and that sense of redemption and healing that some readers really enjoy. It's just not for me.
The language in this story is so rich and the tone really matches the uplifting message. I love the use of imagery and similes. I really liked the stories within in a story told from the secondary characters. That takes some skill as writer to switch voices and not interrupt the flow at all. I really think young tweens will walk away seeing words in their world and looking for the snickers of magic in their everyday lives.
I really wanted to love this book. I'd heard all the buzz and had been meaning to read it for years. Alas, it just didn't strike a chord with me the way it did for some readers. It has some good qualities. It's a book about the power of words and love and family and hope. It features a loving family relationship (nice to see compared to so many middle grade books where the kids either despise the mom/dad/sibling or the kids are orphans or away at boarding school). The idea of the Beedle is just wonderful! And I really liked Jonah. Some of the descriptions are really poetic and lovely. It is a thoughtful, gentle sort of story that doesn't try to flash and dazzle.
But, it's also a sloooow story. And I say this as someone who loves books like "Little Women" or "Anne of Green Gables" where we don't have the "flash and dazzle" either, but at least in those cases it feels that the heroines are proactive and *doing* something and growing. For much of this book, I felt like things just *happened* to Felicity, that even when she had opportunities to really try and do something to change her fate, she just kind of sat back and let things come to her. Maybe there's supposed to be some quiet wisdom in that? As a reader, I found it annoying and tedious. We eventually got to some growth for Felicity, but it was a long time coming. We spend a lot of time learning back stories on myriad side characters, some of the stories come into play later, some don't. Moreover, most of these characters are adults. I just really wasn't all that interested in the past or present romance of Felicity's aunt or the history behind quirky poetess who comes to town, for example. Like Felicity, much of the story was passive, and rather melancholy. And even if the back stories were beautifully written, I just didn't care that much because I wanted more with Felicity and Jonah. I had a love/hate relationship with Midnight Gulch--sometimes, it seemed charming and fun, but much of the time it just seemed way too cutesy-quirky (and I'm a Gilmore Girls fan!) I kept feeling it was too self-consciously atmospheric, right down to the names of the characters and the expressions like "spindiddly" and "what the hayseed!"
Since the book is generally so well-loved, perhaps it's just down to it not being the right fit for me, despite the fact it seemed like it should have been. I'll be generous and round up to 3.5 STARS; I'll choose the good memories when I take my bite of Blackberry Sunrise! ;-)
I disliked this so thoroughly that there's probably not any point in going on about it. It must be a good book for the right reader, because it's getting glowing reviews and stars. For me, you might say, if someone took every element I dislike in a children's book and stirred it together, you'd come up with this. Usually I can at least somewhat get past the "not the book for me" element and appreciate good writing, but I couldn't here. A struggle to finish.
Felicity Pickle is not like most other kids. For one thing, she collects words. They appear all over the place for her, hovering over people, in the falling rain, and she snatches them up to be savored. She shares the words with her little sister in poems sometimes, but whenever she tries to share them with bigger crowds her tongue shuts down. Felicity also is different because she's never lived anywhere longer than a year. Her Mama is a wandering soul, and the Pickles regularly relocate. Seeing the world is wonderful and all, but Felicity kinda sorta hopes that just maybe Midnight Gulch could be home for a while. Especially since Midnight Gulch is supposed to have remnants of magic in it. If the Pickles are to set down roots somewhere, it might as well be a place with magic. And it might as well be a place with family, history, and best friends. But is the magic of Midnight Gulch enough to overcome Felicity's tongue-tiedness or settle Mama's wandering soul? Mixed in with Felicity's story, is the mysterious town Beedle, an unknown person who has been doing random acts of kindness for the past 50 years. There's also the locally-made ice cream. And the legend of the brothers Threadbare, whose famous duel was the end of the magic in Midnight Gulch.
If I had to pick one book right now most likely to win the 2015 Newbery, it'd probably be this one. (I could also see it winning the Schneider Family award since one of the characters is in a wheelchair.) The writing is amazing! It's fantastic. It's, it's spindiddly! The descriptions and words take you on magical rides, and that's without even factoring in the plot. The plot lines themselves are each captivating, cleverly intertwined, and touching. And though they may not be entirely unpredictable, Felicity's magical words will make the ride enchanting whether you knew where it was headed or not. I particularly love this story as my international students who have moved a lot will readily identify with Felicity's longing for a place to call home. But the messages about not being afraid to retry things you've failed at before (or to ask for help), reconciliation, loving people despite faults, not letting your disabilities limit you, and not carrying around past mistakes/failures are all done so well. Oh, and I love how Felicity's best friend Jonah's disability doesn't even phase Felicity and is hardly brought up. He isn't primarily a disabled person. He is himself, and he happens to have a disability (but you often forget that). One warning about the book: ice cream plays a central role in bringing about healing in this book so before you crack the cover you better have some of your favorite flavor in the freezer or you'll be torn between finishing the chapter or running to the store!
Notes on content: No language issues (it is mentioned that some people swear but the words are not written out). No sexual content beyond a peck on the cheek. No violence. A couple of adult characters smoke regularly.
UGGGHHH... I had to read this book for school. And, oh my goodness... I tried to enjoy. I really did. At first, I illusioned myself into thinking I liked it, but then I thought about and realized I didn't. I mean the word "Spindidilly is used SO. MANY. TIMES. Also, there were so many characters and no plot at all. I felt like the book was one long, boring, repetitive, introduction. :(
I wish I had been keeping track of all my favourite lines but, then again, that would probably be the vast majority of the book copied and pasted. I really love Lloyd's writing style. There's a certain kind of world-weary, innocent magic in it. Everything has a colour or a shape and a sound. Felicity has a unique way of seeing the world that that comes through in every sentence.
On top of that, the pacing is well-done, the story is strong and interesting without being complicated or overwhelming. It keeps you involved and, more importantly, hoping for that happy ending.
I will definitely be recommending this one when it comes out in March!
You string the right ones together and you can make people laugh, cry, or think. With just a few carefully chosen ones you can thaw the edges of even the iciest heart. Heck, you can even transport a reader into a whole other city, a whole other time, a whole other world.
All with just the right words.
Felicity Pickle is no stranger to words. She sees more in a single day than most people will see in a lifetime. Felicity is a "word collector" and can spot the little boogers swimming around just about anywhere, invisible to everyone else's eyes but hers. Throughout the course of the book, Felicity realizes that words play a huge part in her story, as well as the story of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee.
And the beauty of it all is how Lloyd weaves this theme throughout the entire book. A Snicker of Magic isn't just a great story about a girl trying to solve a magical mystery and bring peace to her family as well as the town she wants to call home.
It's also a lesson on wordcrafting.
There wasn't a single page that didn't leave me smiling. Lloyd captures that lyrical sing-song cadence of the Appalachian storytellers that I love listening to so much. Every chapter is full of little Tennessee-isms and it's obvious that not a single line is neglected of the voice that makes reading it so delightful.
To use a word coined by Felicity herself--the book is simply spindiddly.
So if this one's on your to-buy list, stop waiting and go pick up a copy. If it's sitting in your to-read pile right now, quit dillydallying and crack the sucker open. If you've never heard of this book before right now, you're welcome. From Tennessee or not, fantasy nut or noob, reader or writer... you need to read this. Because it really doesn't matter who you are, I can guarantee that you'll agree with me on one thing:
Felicity’s mother loves to move to new places, so Felicity has lived all over the country. But when her mother returns to the small town of Midnight Gulch, Felicity quickly realizes she has never lived in any place quite like this one. Midnight Gulch had once been full of magic of all sorts, but then a curse took the magic away and drove two brothers apart as well. But there is magic left in town, if you know where to look. It’s not big magic, just little pieces that were left behind. Felicity has one of those pieces of magic herself, she can see words everywhere, words spoken aloud and words thought silently. She is a word collector keeping a list of the words she finds. Others in town have some magic too, including Jonah, a mysterious boy who calls himself the Beedle and does good deeds around town. Then there’s also the ice cream factory that makes a flavor that evokes memories both sweet and sour. Felicity loves Midnight Gulch, but can she figure out a way to keep her mother from moving on to new places again?
This book was such fun. Lloyd has created an entire town that is filled with a wonderful mix of magic and history. Throughout the book, we learn about what first made Midnight Gulch so magical and then how it was taken away. Then little by little in tantalizing ways readers see the magic that is left and are offered clues about how it may return someday. It’s a book that is surprising and very readable.
Felicity is a great protagonist as she struggles to keep her family in one place. As she finds out more about her own family history and discovers members of her family and community she never knew before, she finds herself less lonely in a way that she never though possible. Perhaps the most delightful piece of all is that Felicity does not need her magic to solve her family’s issues, rather it is about piecing together a mystery and solving a riddle.
Glowing with magic, this novel is a shining read that should be savored just like an ice cream cone on a hot day. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
I may have found this book more charming and less annoying if it had not immediately followed my reading The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. Sometimes reading order makes a difference, but I don't think it would have changed my mind too much. I have very little tolerance for the small southern town full of quirky novel, and this small fictional southern town happens to be near the southern city I live in. The plot is slow and not very much happens. It involves a lot of individual old stories coming together as one and this is not executed as well as it could have been. The book is saved from being completely disastrous by Felicity's character who is sympathetic and works hard to become who she wants to be. I will have no problem recommending this book to my students, but I didn't enjoy it much and I could think of a whole list of books I would rather give them first. It will appeal to kids who like words and language and don't mind slower plots.
This was July's choice for the Goodread's children's fiction book club. A Snicker of Magic was a very sweet story telling how families, friends, and towns are filled with the magic of love. You just need to know how to find it because sometimes it's hidden or even missing. Natalie Lloyd has written a great book with words that actually do weave a magically story. When Felicity Pickle returns to the town her mother used to called home, she grows in love with Midnight Gulch when she finds her first real friend and learns how and why the town has lost its magic. Felicity is determined to find that magic and make her mother understand the need to remain in this perfect town. The reader learns a lot about the people of the town, why the magic left the town, and what needs to be done to get the magic back. Children will love this story and the character of Felicity. There's even the possibility that children will learn to love the art of word collecting and writing their own personal poems and stories!
I've been seeing more magical realism for middle grade readers and this book fits the bill. I like that the magic is everywhere but it isn't so intense that it becomes improbable. This book is a little fun, a little adorable, and a really solid read. I will definitely be buying it for my library and I will definitely shove it into the hands of children if it doesn't fly off the shelf on its own (but with colorful ice cream on the cover, I'm not too worried).