Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nuts to You

Nuts to You
Lynne Rae Perkins
Greenwillow, 2014  256 pgs.
Grades 3-5
Animal Fantasy

Autumn has settled in the forest and the squirrels are busy gathering their nuts in preparation for winter.  Our story begins with our squirrel hero, Jed, getting snatched up by a hawk and transported across the forest, where he breaks free.  On the other side of the forest he meets strange red squirrels, who talk differently, yet welcome Jed to their home and help him to acclimate.  Meanwhile, Jed's friends, TsTs and Chai, see the hawk's ambush and set off to rescue him, eventually finding him.  Meanwhile, strange noises are overtaking the peacefulness of the forest.  A squirrel's eye view of events reveals developers cutting down trees to build a road through the middle of the forest.  Although kind to the squirrels (they share their peanut butter sandwiches), the squirrel community is in danger.  Now reunited, Jed, TsTs, Chai and their new friend Tchke face many dangers journeying back across the forest to warn the others.  Their clan is right in the path of destruction by humans, but how can they warn squirrels, who don't listen?  By turning it into a game of course!  The four squirrel friends invent a game to get the squirrel community to transport their nuts, children, and selves to a new safe home.  But will the plan work?  And will they make it in time?

Perkins is versatile author.  Her Newbery winning Criss Cross and its companion is realistic teen fiction.  She has also written and illustrated picture books.  Nuts to You is somewhere in the middle: an illustrated chapter book for younger readers.  The book contains short chapters. lots of white space, and generous pen and ink illustrations.  The illustrations are masterfully done and add to the experience of the story.  This book will appeal to both girls and boys, as well as reluctant readers.  Although it has a lot of pages, it reads fast.  Its clear that Perkins has spent much time with and contemplating squirrels.  My one complaint is that I kept getting the squirrels confused.  Although they had subtle differences in their personalities, it was not enough for me to tell them apart.  Also, their names were very similar, further adding to the confusion.  Perkins portrays squirrels as community creatures, which they appear to be, but it makes it had to give individuals distinct personalities.  Enough action and adventure happens within the pages of the book to keep the plot rolling along.  The purpose of this book is clearly message driven: "stop cutting down woods and taking away the homes of our animals friends". Perkins sets herself up as a character, who makes friends with one of the squirrels (who can talk to humans), now in old age.  The book begins and ends with Perkins and her elderly animal friend and the meat of the story is the squirrel's reminiscences.  Living on a property festooned with squirrels and watching them dig up my tulip bulbs year after year, I am less enamored with them than Perkins.  Nevertheless, kids see them on a daily bases and can relate to their hi-jinks.  This book may lead kids to contemplating for themselves what the squirrels in their backyard are up to.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Truth about Twinkie Pie

The Truth about Twinkie Pie
Kat Yeh
Little Brown, 2015  335 pgs
Grades 6-8
Realistic Fiction

Galileo Galilei (GiGi) is offered a new start.  Her sister DiDi (short for Delta Dawn) and she have relocated from the south to a posh Long Island town so GiGi can attend an exclusive private school.  Her hairdresser sister has sacrificed everything to give GiGi the best advantages life has to offer.  DiDi cooks all the old recipes their deceased mother use to make and keep's mom's memory alive with stories from the past.  GiGi embraces the new start by changing her name to Leia and pledging to be more social.  A lucky break occurs on the first day of school when she collides with golden boy, Trip, and he invites her into his social circle.  Not everyone welcomes Leia, especially "It Girl", Mace, who has a history with Trip.  Leia makes some nerd-girls friends she has more in common with, friendship with Trip develops into a crush, and relations with DiDi become strained as DiDi welcomes Mace as a helper at the hair salon.  Quiet by accident Leia discovers that her mother isn't dead and is currently residing in a trailer park in South Carolina.  Leia plans on running away with Trip to find her mother, only things don't go exactly right.  The traveling companion changes, Leia is surprised by what she finds in South Carolina, and her whole life is not what she always thought it was.  Now Leia must return to New York and pick up the pieces, where another surprise awaits her concerning, this time, her relationship with Trip.

The books I keep by my bedside table are at such a disadvantage.  I read them before falling asleep at night.  As a very busy working mother, often I get through one page before I fall asleep and then the next day completely forget what I've read and have to re-read.  Usually I always find the books I read at night slow to get through.  Not so with Twinkie Pie.  This book reads so quickly and I had a hard time putting it down, often staying up way too late.  Surprises abound in this book, all in a realistic and authentic way.  The characters are developed and interesting.  My favorite character is DiDi, who is almost too good to be true.  I love how she cooks as if she is on a cooking show on TV.  The recipes DiDi uses are originally mom's and are included at the end of some of the chapters.  I wanted to try a recipe in the book, but they are all so unhealthy that it put me off.  An author's note at the end gives the reader permission to alter the recipes to make them healthier.  The first recipe in the book is mom's famous Twinkie Pie of the title.  The book ends with the new and improved recipe for Twinkie Pie, showing how DiDi and Leia's relationship has evolved, much like the recipe.  Yeh illustrates that people aren't always what they seem, family is what we make it, we all make mistakes so shake them off and move on with life, and the importance of food showing love. The Truth about Twinkie Pie is almost a mystery.  Much of the book involves Leia trying to hunt down Mom's shade of lipstick, leading to her actual whereabouts, but is not a mystery in the traditional sense.  It is a plot driven novel with interesting characters that is very enjoyable to read.  This book will appeal more to girls than boys and although romance is hinted at, it remains innocent and age appropriate. So far this has been the best book I have read published in 2015.  Oh wait, this is the ONLY book I have read so far published in 2015.  Regardless, its a great book and I would highly recommend it.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ways to Live Forever

Ways to Live Forever
Sally Nicholls
Scholastic, 2008  2012 pgs
Grades 4-7
Realistic Fiction

Written in the form of a diary, we experience the last three and a half month's of the life of Sam, an eleven-year-old boy who is dying from Leukemia.  Sam and his friend Felix, who also has cancer, are privately home schooled at Sam's house by Mrs. Willis.  She challenges the boys to write a book and this is Sam's result.  We see lists of interesting facts of scientific things Sam is interested in and lists of his questions and important facts about himself all within the narrative of his days.  The reader also experiences Sam's illness through the eyes of his parents and little sister Ella as they all react and interact with him in different ways.  Felix lands back in the hospital, where he passes away and Sam must process Felix's death, as he prepares for his own.  Sam ticks off the items on his bucket list, including going up a down escalator, taking a ride in an air ship, and seeing a ghost, both with his friend Felix and then finishing the list on his own.  Some of the items are accomplished in unexpected ways, but Sam gets it all done, says goodbye to those who are important to him, and is in a good place for the end.

I read this book as a possibility for my fifth and sixth grade book discussion group.  I missed it when it first came out (I tend to avoid depressing books if I can), but one of the kids suggested reading it.  This is a great book and an important one to read and have on library shelves, but isn't of general interest to everyone and, because of the sensitive nature of the topic, probably wouldn't be the best choice for book discussion.  Nicholls nails the voice of Sam and his experience in a very real and authentic way.  The book is certainly sad and we feel sympathy for Sam and his family, but it never gets too drippy or sentimental.  Sam is very matter-of-fact about his condition and lives his life as best he can under the circumstances,.  I found it almost sadder when Feliz died than at the end when Sam dies, because we experience the book, which is written in the first person, through his eyes.  Ways to Live Forever is a character driven story and all the characters are all fully developed.  It is interesting to see how the different people in Sam's life react and the effect of his illness on the family, all through an eleven-year-old lenses.  Ways to Live Forever is a British book and was not noticeably altered for an American audience (which I approve of).  Some of the British-isms and slang may put off young American readers, but Sam's overall life-style is comparable to that of American children.  The book is quiet and thoughtful, but I was never bored and Sam is never too depressing and annoying.  I really liked him, felt sad when he died, but also felt a sense of peace that it was okay.  A book about a child dying is not for everyone, which is why I wouldn't use it for book discussion, but I have some young patrons who ask me for "sad books".  This book definitely will have an audience and is a beautiful story for those who enjoy such things.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

George's Secret Key to the Universe

George's Secret Key to the Universe
Lucy & Stephen Hawking
Simon & Schuster, 2007  297 pgs.
Grades 4-6
Science Fiction

George's pet pig runs away, landing in his new neighbor's kitchen.
He becomes acquainted with Eric, a friendly scientist, and his young daughter Annie.  George is very interested in science, but his environmentally conscious parents are anti-technology and science.  George has so many questions and Eric, an astrophysicist, loves to share his knowledge.  He introduces George to the smartest computer in the world, Cosmos, who has a personality and is a character in his own right.  Through Cosmos Eric, and eventually George and Annie, are able to travel into outer space and explore the universe.  George's creepy teacher, Dr. Graham Reeper, knows about Cosmos and recruits the classroom bullies to try to get his hands on the super computer.  Meanwhile, George explores outer space with both Lucy and Eric, as he learns first-hand about the secrets of the universe, all while battling Dr. Reeper and his team of thugs.  Adventure, misunderstandings, and getting in and out of trouble keep George hopping, all while trying to come up with a great idea for the science fair, where he can stand to win his own computer.  Will Dr. Reeper get his greedy paws on Cosmos?  Will Eric be lost in space forever?  Will George ever win his desired computer?  These and other questions are answered by the conclusion of the book.

Lucy Hawking, Stephen's daughter, collaborates with genius dad in presenting this fictionalized account of real facts.  The book clearly has an agenda; presenting scientific information about astrophysics on a child's level.  The science is thinly veiled within the adventurous story at the expense of character development and believe-ability.  In other words, this is not the best written book for children, but it serves the purpose the authors intended: to educate children in an entertaining way.  Certain plot points (the introduction of the pig in the beginning, only to have her not be part of the story and George's masterful win at the science fair when he only talks about space) are weak.  Dr. Reeper is straight out of a comic book and the other characters are also underdeveloped.  The plot quickly moves and hold's kid's interest.  The science is written in a child friendly way and is learned as George is actually in outer space.  Hawking includes fact boxes, tables, charts, and color photos to further educate.  The main theme is: since our planet is in trouble, should we put our efforts into finding a new place to live or saving the current planet?  Hawking pleads for both sides, showing us that both science exploration and environmental protection are equally important.  Cartoon-like illustrations generously decorate the book's pages, helping to move the reader along and adding to the fun. There are humorous parts to the story, also making this book an enjoyable read.  Both boys and girls will like this book and it is appropriate for smart second and third graders who need a challenge.  This is a great choice for science-minded kids or for students to help supplement the curriculum.  Two more books are in the series, so Hawking offers somewhere to go when this book is finished.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer
Kate Klimo
Random House, 2008  159 pgs.
Grades 3-5
Fantasy
Dragon Keepers Series #1

Ten-year-old Jessie is living with his cousin Daisy's family while his parents are working in Africa.  The two cousins are also best friends and love to explore and make-up magical games together.  Daisy's father is a geologist and "rock professor" at the local university.  When the children discover an unusual rock they bring it to Dad, who tries to open it thinking it is a geode filled with beautiful crystals.  The rock proves impossible to open.  Eventually, the true nature of the rock is revealed when a real baby dragon emerges and begins speaking to them.  They name their new friend Emmy (sort for Emerald) and its love at first sight.   The cousins search on-line to ascertain how to take care of dragons, when they are draw to a mysterious website.  The website is maintained by Professor L.B. Andersson, Doctor of Draconology, who speaks to the children through a wizard avatar.  He advises the new dragon keepers what to feed their new friend, how to take care of him, and basic dragon know-how.  Meanwhile, a creepy and mysterious man is lurking about watching them.  Jesse and Daisy manage to convince Dad that the dragon is a lizard and he lets them keep it, as long as they put up "lost signs", which are answered by creepy guy.  Creepy guy identifies himself as Professor Saint George, a lizard scientist, who claims that Emmy belongs to him and takes Emmy away.  Jesse and Daisy can tell that Professor Saint George is up to no good.  They must go to the university to try to rescue Emmy and then figure out how they can talk Daisy's parents into letting them keep her.  Finding a pet dragon isn't as easy or fun as you think its going to be, as Jesse and Daisy soon find out, but it makes for a great story!

This is a terrific choice for readers transitioning from chapter books into longer works of fiction. The chapters and book itself are longer and only one picture is included at the beginning of each chapter, yet the margins are still wide and the book is far from overwhelming.  Dragon in the Sock Drawer is a light fantasy with both adventure and gentle humor.  It will appeal to budding scientists, children who believe in magic, dragon and animal lovers, and children who want their fantasy within this world.  Having both a male and female main character make the book accessible to both.  Daisy's siblings are conveniently grown up, Jesse's parents are in Africa, and Daisy's mom is on a business trip, which leaves the children a lot of freedom to have their adventure and less characters confusing the plot.  Jesse and Daisy problem solve on their own, outwit the bad guy, and figure out how to care for Emmy. The cover is colorful and appealing, making kids want to pick this book up.  Klimo knows how to write for children and kid's will enjoy this volume from start to finish.  Best of all, once they finish they can go on to read the other five books in the series.  After reading The Dragon in the Sock Drawer kids will be scouring their backyards for dragon eggs hoping to find a new friend of their own.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness
Candlewick, 2008  496 pgs.
Grades 8-12
Science Fiction/Adventure
Chaos Walking #1

Imagine a world where we can read each other's thoughts, including those of animals.  Todd Hewitt is about to turn thirteen-years-old and become a man, a standard determined by Pretisstown, a frontier style settlement on a distant planet.  Todd lives with his two male guardians and hyper dog, Manchee in a town alone on a planet where all the women have died of a virus and the men constantly produce "noise", thoughts that can be heard.  Todd is the last boy in his village awaiting the all important birthday, when, to his surprise, he stumbles upon a girl hidden in an abandoned town formally occupied by now extinct aliens.  When the men of the settlement read Todd's mind and see his discovery, Todd is in danger.  His guardians force him to run away into the swamp, all while the men of the village chase him.  He brings his dog, a backpack filled with supplies and, eventually, teams up with the girl, Viola, and they run away together.  Surprises await Todd as he discovers that basically all he knows about the world is a lie.  There are other towns on the planet, the aliens aren't really extinct, and the women haven't all died of a virus.  More surprises greet him at every turn.  Todd, Viola, and Manchee eventually land in another settlement, where their welcome is less than gracious.  Why do people hate the residents of Prentisstown?  What is so significant about Todd's thirteenth birthday?  What really happened to the women of the town?  What became of Todd's guardians?  These and other questions are answered as Todd and Viola run head-long into one dangerous situation after another, all while being chased by Aaron, a deranged Pretisstown preacher, determined to kill the two young people.

This book always seemed too dark and scary for me, so I put off reading it.  After consistently seeing it on recommended lists I finally cracked into it.  The Knife of Never Letting Go is not your typical dystopian teenage fiction.  Its darker that most with more character development.  Despite its's long length the book moves along at a break-neck speed, making it a great recommendation for reluctant readers.  Boys, especially, will devour this book, but girls will like it too.  Its extremely original with so many plot twists I was captivated from start to finish.  I love the idea of hearing animal thoughts, although, according to Ness, they really don't have much to say.  The "noise" constantly flowing from the men seems to me to be a reflection of the constant noise of our society from the media and electronics.  Ness also has grim messages about human nature, mob mentality, and the lengths people will go in order to survive.  I was surprised at how many times the preacher character, Aaron, seemed dead, only to show up again seventy-five pages later, still crazy and anger, but with more missing body parts.  Todd and Viola also seemed to "take a licking, but keep on ticking" to an absurd degree.  They appear to be dead countless times, only to shake it off and keep on running.  Some characters do die and there are truly sad and hopeless moments.  Although many plot points are resolved, the book ends with a cliff-hanger (surprise: one of the characters is in mortal danger).  With two more volumes in the trilogy, I'm willing to bet that the character survives.  The Knife of Never Letting Go is being developed into a movie and is being toted as the next "Hunger Games", so librarians serving teens should be aware of it and teens who like dystopian fiction should read it before it disappears from library shelves.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

I Lived on Butterfly Hill
Marjorie Agosin
Atheneum, 2014  454 pgs.
Grades 5-8
Historical Fiction

Eleven-year-old Celeste has an idyllic life. She resides with her doctor parents, grandmother, and beloved nanny and spends her time at school, hanging out with friends, writing, and dreaming.  Her house sits at the top of a hill in a small town in Chile and she loves to sit on her roof and watch the boats and cranes.  Suddenly everything changes.  The recently elected socialist president is overthrown in a coup d'etat and a conservative dictator has stepped into power.  Celeste's parents, who ran a clinic and are committed to helping the poor, are in danger and must go into hiding.  Children are disappearing from school each day, including one of Celeste's best friends.  Chile is no longer a safe or happy place to be.  Celeste is sent to live with an aunt in Maine.  Maine is a culture shock; from the harsh weather to speaking in a new language.  Celeste feels like an outsider and struggles to make friends.  The only other ESL student in her class is a girl from Korea and the two eventually become friends.  Unfortunately, the girl and her family disappear, leaving Celeste more isolated than ever.  After two years Celeste has mastered English and is starting to fit in when word arrives that the dictator has been overthrown and it is safe to come home.  Celeste returns to her home in Chile to find her grandmother much aged, her parents still in hiding in different secret locations, and friends changed with some still missing.  She receives clues as to the whereabouts of her father and sets off to rescue him.  Eventually, the family is reunited, though much worse for wear.  A new president is elected and Celeste and her family and friends begin to pick up the pieces of their lives and live again in a reborn Chile, filled with hope and promise.

Agosin has penned quite a book.  Everything happens to Celeste.  The 454 pages could have been split up into a trilogy and are in three distinct parts: Chile before and during the take-over/Celeste in Maine/Chile after Celeste's return.  Even though the book was long, I never became bored.  Agosin is very consistent with portraying Celeste's voice.  Celeste is a likable and brave girl who experiences much character growth throughout the book.  The reader will root for her, sympathize with her plight, and enjoy spending time with her.  This book is based on the author's own experiences during Chile's political take-over in 1973, when she. herself, fled to the United States.  It is historical fiction and the author describes the place and time as only one who lived through it could.  Unfortunately, she ends the dictatorship after only two years, when in reality it went on through 1990.  Even though a work is historical fiction, I think that the historic details should be as accurate as possible.  The fiction should come from the story part, not the historic part.  Maybe Agosin wanted Celeste to have closure: to return to Chile and pull her life back together.  Or maybe she wanted to reader to experience the aftermath of the dictatorship, while still keeping it through the eyes of a child narrator.  Back in Chile Celeste has a very dangerous adventure rescuing her father from his place of hiding, which felt out of place among the rest of the story.  I think maybe the book could have ended with Celeste in Maine with an afterwards of what really happened during the coup and the aftermath.  At any rate, Agosin presents a great work about a little known time in history, which has never been, as far as I can tell, written about for young people.  The book will appeal more to girls, but boys would like it too if they gave it a try.  I love that it features a South American culture, shows the struggles of children arriving to America as refugees, and it has a great moral compass.  I also like that Celeste's grandmother escaped the Holocaust to Chile and the family is Jewish, although we never see them actively practicing their religion.  All in all, this is a highly readable book that will expand the minds of young readers not afraid of thick volumes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Crossover

The Crossover
Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin, 2014  237 pgs
Grades 6-9
Narrative Poetry/Sports

Written in narrative poetry, Josh Bell (aka Filthy McNasty) traces his seventh grade championship basketball season.  His father, a former pro-basketball player, has trained Josh and his twin brother Jordan (aka JB) to be star players since they were two years old.  Now the twins lead their team to victory game after game, communicating with "twin power" both on and off the court with Dad cheering from the sidelines.  The partnership is threatened by what else?  A lady.  Jordan gets a girl friend and Josh feels left out and jealous.  Further tension results from Josh loosing a bet to his brother and allowing him to cut off his beloved dreds.  After a particularly bad beginning to an important game Josh overreacts with "nasty" practically breaking his brother's nose in an ill-timed pass.  The brother's relationship further deteriorates and the whole family is strained.  After ignoring pleas from his wife (the boy's middle school vice principal) to go to a doctor (his father died prematurely from what he thinks is doctor's fault) Dad has several scary heart related scares, finally building to the climax of the story.  Dad and Josh are playing one-on-one and Dad has a heat attack.  Josh tried to save his life with CPR and for a while it looks like Dad is going to make it.  The night of the championship Mom gets a call from the hospital.  Complications have ensued.  Josh chooses to go to the game to finish the championship season for Dad, while Jordan chooses the hospital.  They win the big game, thanks to Josh getting in "the zone" but loose Dad.  The brothers must pick up the pieces of their life and their relationship and try to find healing, a path that they begin by book's end.

Sitting at home yesterday (my library closed for a snow day) cuddled on my couch under a blanket with a hot cup of coffee and the children snoozing away upstairs, I watched the announcement that Alexander won the 2015 Newbery Medal for best written work for young people.  I was completely caught off guard, having dismissed The Crossover as a "basketball book" and ignoring it sitting on the top of my pile of books collected at Book Expo last May.  I had every intention of reading this book, as I'm committed to finding great books for boys, who tend to be my toughest and most reluctant customers, but kept stalling.  After the award was announced I ran upstairs, pulled the book off the pile, and read it in one sitting.  Despite my trepidation, I loved it.  It is a basketball book, but so much more.  Written in poetry, once you get into the book you forget that you are reading poetry, although some poems were so cool I had to re-read them.  When Josh gets in the "the zone" with his game the poetry changes and we can feel what Josh feels.  Some of the poems feel like rap, some poems feel like jazz (Dad's preferred style of music), all the poems are tight. Alexander incorporates the rhythm of basketball, music, and adolescence in his poetry leaving the reader with a real slice of life. The tension of the story sneaks up on the reader and won't let you go.  I thought for sure that Alexander was going to save Dad and have him show up at the final game.  I was totally surprised that Alexander went with the realistic over the sentimental, mirroring life as his readers may be experiencing it.  The book ends with a message of hope and the readers knows that Josh and Jordan will be okay.I love that they have a strong, educated Mom and their parents have a loving and functional relationship.  The book reads very quickly (it took me a little over an hour) and is impossible to put down.  The obvious audience is boys, but (as II can attest to) girls will like it too; even those who don't care about basketball.  The Crossover is sure to be a classroom hit and used as a teaching device and seen on summer reading lists.  Give it boys who think they don't like to read and watch them eats this book up.  One thing you can say about Kwame Alexander: he certainly's got game!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Snicker of Magic

A Snicker of Magic
Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic, 2014  311 pgs.
Grades 4-7
Fantasy

Felicity Pickle is not like other kids.  She is a "word collector" and often sees words floating around people and things.  She, her wandering mother, and baby sister have returned to Mama's hometown of Midnight Gulch to live with Aunt Cleo.  Midnight Gulch was once a town with magic running through the veins of the residents and manifesting itself in different ways.  The most famous residents were the long deceased Brothers Threadbare, who created magic while playing the guitar and banjo and broke apart after a famous duel that chased away all the magic in the town.  Felicity and her new friend, wheel chair bound Jonah, think maybe there is a "snicker" of magic left in Midnight Gulch and set off to put the problems of the town to rights.  They do secret good deeds for people with the help of lovable and eccentric townsfolk, all under the code name of "The Beetle".  Despite her accute shyness, Felicity has agreed to participate in a school-wide talent show, playfully called "a duel" after the famous Brothers Threadbare.  She plans on sharing her collected words in the form of poems, although it scares her silly.  A wayward uncle returns, new friendships are formed, a new family for Felicity and her sister emerges and Felicity finally feels like she has found a home.  Unfortunately, her mother is fated to wander as part of the Threadbare curse.  Felicity must try to break the curse so her family can stay in tact and Midnight Gulch can restore itself to its full magical potential and its broken residents find healing.  All plot points reach a climax at the big duel and Felicity must pull out her own "snicker of magic" to set things right.

First time author, Natalie Lloyd, offers readers a delightful and folksie visit to a small and, perhaps, magical town in Tennessee.  We feel Felicity's frustration of always moving and her relief from at last fitting in and laying down roots.  Felicity has a form of Synesthesia that enables her to see words in the air around people.  It sets her apart and makes her feel alone in the world.  Thanks to her new friends and reunited family, she learns to turn her "otherness" into something special.  Through her words and poems Felicity is able to break the town curse, helping many folks and revitalizing the town itself.  This book emphasizes the themes of the importance of family and friends, always doing good deeds for people, and embracing the magic possibly lurking in real life.  The characters are all well developed and interesting.  They practically walk off the page and make the reader want to ride into Midnight Gulch and stay for a spell to swap stories.  The book is comfortable and simple, yet with substance, and makes magic feel possible.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it.  It is an excellent realistic fantasy choice for kids who don't want sorcerers and dragons.  A Snicker of Magic may be too quiet a read for some, but it held my interest for all of the 311 pages.  I felt myself rooting for Felicity and caring for her future and that of the other townsfolk.   Can words, music, or ice cream contain magic?  I like to think so and I think that Lloyd and the residents of Midnight Gulch would agree!