A Wilder Magic

Sourcebooks. May 2021. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781728209647; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781728245737.
Gr 4-6–Sybaline Shaw and her family live in the most beautiful valley in all of Appalachia. In addition to the natural beauty, their home in the gorgeous Smokey Mountains is endowed with magic. When the Tennessee Valley Authority builds a dam (built between 1933 and 1944) that would support the war in which Sybaline’s father is fighting, Sybaline and her cousin Nettle decide not to leave their home. With a bit of planning and a few lies, the girls use magic to stay. The warm, tingly magic that Sybaline feels comes with its own rules, however. If used in ways that are contrary to nature, the magic turns people into trees—several family members have experienced that firsthand. As the girls seek to protect their way of life they are joined by Nettle’s little sisters, and a curious boy whose father has helped build the dam. But the water bubble in which they find themselves is not at all what they thought it would be and they must use magic to get out. The children’s escape is fast-paced and compelling as Sybaline and Nettle find themselves changing into a laurel tree and ginseng root until they reach the surface. Eventually, the girls learn that home is more than a place and that sometimes change isn’t all bad. Lush descriptions of the valley and its slow underwater deterioration create a strong sense of place and build tension. Characters are likable and the action is quick. Sybaline and her family are cued as white.
VERDICT A highly readable look at family, home, and the importance of being true to oneself. For general purchase in school and public libraries.

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