cover image Salt Magic

Salt Magic

Hope Larson, illus. by Rebecca Mock. Holiday House/Ferguson, $21.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5050-3

When her older brother Elber returns to Gypsum, Okla., from WWI profoundly changed and ready to settle down, 12-year-old Vonceil misses his adventurous spirit, which previously matched her own. After Elber marries his sweetheart, Amelia—accused at the wedding of being a witch—his past intrudes in the form of the arrival of an elegant woman who nursed him in Paris. Spurned, the newcomer turns the family spring—the only reliable source of water in a drought affecting the farming community—to saline. Determined to lift the curse, Vonceil rides out at night, encountering her bizarre family history and a hidden world of dangerous magical beings that will require grit, resourcefulness, and unexpected allies to navigate. Mock’s washed-out, dusty palette and carefully observed fashion swiftly conjures rural Oklahoma in 1919, while occasional bursts of bright, clear color separate the magical from the mundane. Despite uneven pacing at some transitional moments, this story by the previous collaborators (Compass South) unfolds skillfully, taking time to develop memorable heroine Vonceil and her quotidian world, whose characters cue as white, before setting her on an adventure that echoes fantasy classics yet feels entirely distinct. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)