Salt Magic

Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson. Oct. 2021. 240p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780823446209; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780823450503.
Gr 5 Up–Vonceil Taggart is dismayed when her beloved older brother Elber returns home from World War I in 1919 and proposes to his childhood sweetheart, Amelia. Vonceil had hoped that Elber would fall in love with a French nurse and take her with him, far away from Gypsum, OK. But when glamorous, mysterious Greda comes to the Taggart farm looking for Elber, Vonceil regrets her wish: Upon finding out that Elber is married, Greda curses the spring on their farm to turn into salt water. Feeling at fault, Vonceil sets out after Greda to make things right; in doing so, she hears a secret family story and makes risky bargains. The color and tone of the illustration shifts depending on the different settings, with earth tones for the farm and candy colors and twilight hues as Vonceil encounters more fantastical settings. Mock’s art communicates characters’ expressions (mutinous Vonceil looking a bit like Ramona Quimby in the beginning); contains fine details, such as the quilt on Vonceil’s bed and Greda’s diamond-shaped pupils; conveys action, including a fight, an escape, and a wordless party scene; and shows subtle sparkles of magic. Tall, slender Greda is drawn in 1920s flapper fashion; all main characters are white. An epilogue makes for a sweet finish.
VERDICT Readers with a sweet tooth or a salt tooth looking for a historical fantasy will swallow this graphic novel fairy tale whole. Highly recommended.

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