The protagonist of this debut joins a growing list of endearing young girls from the South, and it’s an extra bonus that her new best friend and mentor is a boy whose method of transportation, without fanfare, just happens to be a wheelchair.
Felicity Juniper Pickle, her little sister, Frannie Jo, and their dog, Biscuit, have once again been moved by their mother to a new town. This time they are moving in with Mama’s sister in Mama’s old hometown, Midnight Gulch, Tenn., which used to be renowned for its magic—the kind where people could “sing up thunderstorms and…dance up sunflowers.” Felicity, who has an uncanny ability for seeing and using written words but suffers from stage fright, wants to stay in Midnight Gulch. Her new friend, Jonah, with whom she performs anonymous acts of kindness, persuades Felicity to enter the Duel—a talent show in which her “weapon” will be her words. As the Duel approaches, Felicity and Jonah find themselves caught up in figuring out how to return the town’s magic and to reverse a curse from Felicity’s “balloon-riding, globe-trotting, curse-bearing great-great-grandfather” (surely homage to Holes).
Although pacing is sometimes difficult, this tale offers all the other earmarks of fine storytelling, including colorful, eccentric characters, an original, highly likable narrator and a mighty “spindiddly” plot. (Fantasy. 8-13)