Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Anyone who works with kids knows the power of words. Words can hurt or heal. Words can build up or break down. Words can inspire courage or fear. Words can dance on paper like wind chimes or remain silent. Felicity has a snicker of magic that allows her to see words on people and objects. The words might reveal a history, express feelings, or predict the future. Words materialize out of nowhere and bring her comfort or knowledge in situations. She jots her words in a blue book she carries everywhere, but words fail her when she has to speak in front of groups. The only good thing about moving all the time is she can leave behind her most recent public-speaking disasters. The bad thing is she has to introduce herself in every new school and new class. Her newest school results in her mispronouncing her name in front of the sixth grade class saying, "My name is Flea..." Hers is an unsettling lifestyle involving her mom's extreme wanderlust that uproots her and her younger sister every few months. Unhappy since her husband left her, Felicity's mom has been on the run, flitting like a sparrow from one city to the next. When the three settle with their Aunt Cleo, the two girls make friends and don't want to leave. Felicity can tell her mom wants to leave after 24 hours. When Felicity uncovers a curse in her family that she believes makes her mom wander, she's determined to break it. With the help of her best friend Jonah, she finds out what really matters in life and learns to believe in herself.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Felicity is able to get her mom to stay in town when she signs up for the school talent show called, "The Duel," named after two magical brothers in town that had the gift of music until they became jealous of each other. The loser of the duel was cursed to wander and leave town. The other brother's magic no longer worked with his brother gone. Now that the family was broken, he too, eventually left town. As a result, the town's magic disappeared except for a snicker of it and other family's left too leaving a sad, broken, and unhappy town. The story is a symbol of the adult characters and Felicity, the protagonist, who are leading unhappy, unfulfilled lives. They are broken and beat down by unrealized dreams and fears. Felicity is terrified of speaking and tired of moving. Her younger sister is tired of always trying to make friends at school. Cleo is a chain-smoking aunt that fell out of love over an argument. Uncle Boone is a washed up singer. Her mom can't stay in one place and is broken over her husband leaving her and their two daughters. Florentine carries a bag of burdens that she cannot put down. Jonah is scared his dad will die fighting in an overseas war. Much of this story swirls around hope, love, and belief or faith that all will work out if a person keeps on working at reaching his or her potential through positive words and support from those he or she loves.

Jonah is in a wheelchair and does kind things for others anonymously. He is a budding philanthropist that believes in Felicity and always says that something good is going to happen. His magic ability is his "know-how" that allows him to predict the future. However, he can't predict what will happen to his dad who is fighting in a war and he is afraid that he will get killed. Felicity uses magic, symbolized in a dove tattoo, to help Jonah deal with his fears, just like Jonah helps Felicity deal with stage fright. The author doesn't really incorporate Jonah's disability into the plot and I forgot he was even in a wheelchair for much of the time.

The end reminds me of the Romantic writings that would describe nature in so much glory it was like a religious experience. In this story, when the magic breaks loose and heals all the broken people it is a miracle that causes a revival of the townsfolk jumping and dancing in joy. It made me think of Colin in "The Secret Garden," who is so moved by nature he jumps up and recites the Doxology. Nature in that book so moves the characters that it is like a religious experience. Magic in this book so moves the characters that it is like a religious experience or rock concert. Felicity is not a flawed character, but is the magic weaver; she weaves words to mend and heal those around her as well as her own heart that is upset that her dad abandoned them. She doesn't understand how he could love them and leave them.  She makes peace with it at the end.

Felicity's magic at seeing words seemed like a metaphor for the author writing a book. Felicity is afraid of speaking and must learn to take the risk of speaking in public just like the author must take the risk of writing a book that can be rejected by the public. "No matter how many words I write, they're still just words. Words aren't the same as talent." Jonah tells her that "Your words are talent." Writing a book is like magic. All those words have to fall into place. It is difficult and requires the author to leave himself or herself vulnerable. When the words above Boone change because Felicity says something positive instead of negative, she realizes the power of words. "Maybe sometimes the words I say are as magical as the words I see." It would seem that the author's way of dealing with fears of rejection are to focus on the positive. When Boone talks about how it is harder to see colors as he ages, it suggests that adults don't believe as readily as kids in magic whether that is magic in a story or magic in changing the future or how a person sees himself or herself. This is a feel good story that looks at how the power of words can magically change people for the better.

4 Smileys

1 comment: