Though similar in tone and style to Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic (2014), this whimsical story of friendship, family, ghosts and magic in the Tennessee mountains is not quite as successful. But it is an early ARC or maybe I was just less in the mood for it this time around.
Emma Pearl Casey and her brother, Topher, live with their grandmother at the Boneyard Cafe, a re-appropriated old church on the edge of a graveyard in Blackbird Hollow. Times are tough for the town and for the cafe, and it looks like Granny Blue will need to sell out to a grasping property developer. But the women in Emma’s family have always had extraordinary destinies, and there is an old ghost story about hidden treasure which Emma believes she can find and save her home.
Emma, her BFF Cody Belle and a new friend Earl, make an appealing central trio. They are loyal, earnest and funny. Granny Blue, who looks like “a walking, talking rock song” is a terrific creation, and her gang of friends, the Pancake Club, are something that Emma aspires to, even as she dreads school because of bullying about the scar from her cleft lip surgery.
I found the whimsy a little too much – there are too many capitalized magical happenings that seem to pop up to move the plot, along with convenient symbolic and enchanted flowers. But as with Snicker, the author manages to pull it all together for an intensely emotional climax. The build-up is less coherent though and some of the plot feels like it could do with some paring away to get to the main thrust.
Nonetheless, I think the final version of the book will be well worth reading, and fans of Southern magical whimsy titles like Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky (Dial, 2012), are sure to find much to love in it.
Thanks to Scholastic and Edelweiss for the digital review copy.