When I was a children’s librarian, I enjoyed reading juvenile books, especially for the Battle of the Books at my work. One of the titles that I read to prepare for that competition was A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Even though it can be predictable, it’s a good novel about finding the right words to say what one believes in.
A Snicker of Magic involves Felicity Pickle – a 12-year-old “word collector” – and a town that used to have magic. In the past, Midnight Gulch was a magical place, but a curse drove it away. When Felicity arrives in that town, she thinks her luck will change. As “a word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere, yet Midnight Gulch is the first place that she’s ever seen the word “home” because her nomadic mom has a wandering heart. She also meets Jonah – a mysterious do-gooder who shimmers with words that she has never seen before, and he makes her heart beat a little faster. Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch, yet she has to figure out a way to bring back the magic, so she can break the spell that’s been cast over the town and over her mom’s broken heart.
I can see why my library chose this title for Battle of the Books. When I read this book, all I could think of was how cinematic this can be. This was especially true with how the words appear everywhere that Felicity looks like in someone’s hair and in strings of her Uncle Boone’s banjo. I personally think it could work better in animation since that form doesn’t limit much to the imagination like live action can at times.
In addition, Felicity Pickle is a relatable character as all she wants is a place to stay and belong. I know a lot of kids, especially her age can identify with that. She has her quirks with the words and her insecurities. She’s great at collecting words, but verbalizing them is a challenge. All she needs is the right words, and spoilers, she does. I like her friend Jonah as well. He likes to do good things for people regardless of where they live in the world. He does this because it makes him feel good and as a way to distract him from thinking of his dad who’s been deployed. Jonah also is confined to a wheelchair for unknown reasons, but he and the book don’t let his disability define him. In other words, it’s there, and it’s a part of his story. The townspeople are accommodating to him, but all they think of him is a kid who lives with them.
My only complaint is that it can be predictable at times.
The characters have quirky names: check! The main character’s name is Felicity Juniper Pickle, and her teacher is Miss Divinity Lawson.
The town the Pickles move is unique, and all of the townspeople could have their own TV shows: check! Midnight Gulch is a place that used to have a lot of magic, and everybody in it has some kind of power.
People tell stories that happen to advance the plot: check! I understand that Felicity has a hard time finding and telling her story, but does everybody have to tell theirs? I don’t know if everyone has figured out each of their own, but there could’ve been other ways to move the plot forward.
And of course, I also have to address a peeve that a lot of readers have with the book: the amount of times the word “spindiddly” and the phrase “what the hayseed” are mention. I personally didn’t mind this because “spindiddly” is such a unique word that suits Felicity perfectly. People use certain words repeatedly to describe practically everything. For example, I like to say “absolutely,” “definitely,” and “indeed” plenty of times. I’ve annoyed others by repeating these words, but that’s my thing. As for “what the hayseed,” I find the phrase to suit the location very well. It takes place in a town in Tennessee, so it makes sense that people from that part of the United States might exclaim something like that. Also, I reviewed For Whom the Bell Tolls last year, and there’s one part of the book, in which the main character says muck to everybody he knows. Yes, muck. In addition, various people say, “What the obscenity” too! In other words, I’d rather hear “what the hayseed” than “what the obscenity.”
All in all, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd is a good middle-reader novel that tackles the power of finding the right words to say what one really means. The protagonist is certainly relatable, and the descriptions for how the words form in everywhere that she sees make the book ripe for a film adaptation. Some readers might be annoyed with its troupes and frequent use of certain words and phrases. I’d recommend it for those who love reading about magical towns and characters who struggle to speak up. It got me a snicker of magic, and you can have it too.
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