Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, used to be a magical town where people caught stars in jars, called up thunderstorms with songs and even turned invisible at will. But ever since a pair of musical brothers dueled and then went their separate ways, a curse has lingered over the townsfolk, leaving them with only a tiny snicker of their previous power.

When the Pickle family arrives back in town after many years of wandering, Felicity Juniper Pickle expects their visit to be short and lonely, just like all their other road stops. But soon Felicity—who can see words flicker and zoom and dance through the air—makes an especially “spindiddly” friend, learns about her family’s history in Midnight Gulch and decides she wants to make such a “splendiferous” place her permanent home. Felicity aims to break the curse and end the town’s sadness, but first she has to overcome her fear of sharing her words in public.

Debut author Natalie Lloyd populates Midnight Gulch with vibrant people and places, including a woman who carries her family’s burdens in a traveling bag, a mysterious “Beedle” who delivers gifts and good cheer, and an ice cream factory whose signature flavor calls up both the sweetest and most bitter of memories. A wheelchair-bound boy is refreshingly characterized by his interests rather than his disability, and second chances abound for many who thought themselves long lost.

Reminiscent of Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo but with elements of magical realism, A Snicker of Magic is a celebration of new beginnings, old stories and the power of the words that surround us all.

 

Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey.

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