A Snicker of Magic is a spindiddly book. In other words, it is written by a word lover for word lovers, and I fell in love with it right away. It also has a great story about a town with just a snicker of magic left and a girl who needs to bring the magic back so she can have a home. Felicity Pickle and her sister, Frannie Jo, travel with their mother from place to place, never really settling down. The two girls are getting tired of it, and when the family arrives in Midnight Gulch, a town that tales say was once full of magic, Felicity feels at home. She decides that in order to stay she has to bring the magic back full force. As she moves through the town learning the town’s stories and that of its people, she figures out the magic that is left and the mending that is needed to bring it back.
Midnight Gulch is full of stories, and Felicity listens to all of them while she works with her new friend, Jonah, to tease out the riddle of the vanished magic. Lloyd has a way of telling the stories, giving them the right rhythm and rhyme and swing. She has also given Midnight Gulch several minor magics while it waits for full restoration. The ice cream, for example, is more than delicious and many-flavored; the Blackberry Sunrise makes people remember. One woman bakes pies that people say make people fall in love or make them brave. It is all small, practical, light magic full of wonder. The town’s restoration is similarly one of beauty and fullness: The magic is not that of kingdoms and dragons but of memories restored, families healed, and shadows that sometimes dance when their owners are still.
A Snicker of Magic is full of words and the wonder of words. The narrator, Felicity, is a word collector. She likes not just the sound and meaning of words but also their shapes and colors: She sees them around places and people wherever she goes, and writes the important ones down in her book, and she describes them, “Words come in all sorts of shapes: stars, spaceships, pretzel words. Some words glow and some words dance,” and “Red is a blooming word. I watched it rise up in front of me and sprout leaves and vines that stretched all across the apartment complex.” If she sees a word that has no meaning, like spindiddly, she gives it one. The type plays with words as well; some are bold, some are bigger than others, or squiggly, or split apart just so. It makes for splendid, word-hoarding, word-holding reading.
Lloyd crafts a loving sister relationship as an older sister looks after a younger. She charts friendship and the barest beginnings of romance as Felicity and Jonah meet and get to know one another, and she shows the power of small actions in the world, and the painful, possible process of mending what has been broken. She also develops the growing friendship and beginning romance between Jonah and Felicity well.
A Snicker of Magic isn’t just a book to read; it is a book to savor. It is a book to read to yourself or out loud to a friend, to put on your shelf to reread on a grey and rainy day or to take with you when you’re going to sit out under the shade of a tree and think for a while.
Spindiddly, in case you were wondering, means “better than awesome.”
A Snicker of Magic is available now.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Scholastic Press
ISBN 0545552702 (ISBN13: 9780545552707)