This stunningly original graphic novel tells a tale of life in Oklahoma after the Great War, when a young soldier returning from Europe triggers a curse, leaving his younger sister to find a way to save their family farm.
Vonceil Taggart is the youngest of five children growing up on a farming homestead ten miles north of the nearest town. The Taggarts’ farm has a freshwater spring that sustains them even when the rains fail, as they’re threatening to do around the time Vonceil’s beloved oldest brother Elber returns from fighting in Europe. To Vonceil’s disappointment, Elber barely has time for her now, having eyes only for Amelia, the sweetheart he left behind. Vonceil finds Amelia crushingly dull, and had secretly prayed that Elber would meet and marry a sophisticated European beauty while deployed and whisk Vonceil off with them afterwards to tour the world. Instead, Elber seems fairly intent on being boring and grown-up and marrying Amelia and settling down in Oklahoma for good.
When a beautiful Frenchwoman sweeps into town shortly after Elber’s wedding, Vonceil feels instantly drawn to her. Greda is exotic and lovely, but has come bearing a grudge. Apparently, she and Elber had embarked on an affair while in Paris, and now she wants him to come away with her again. Elber refuses, at which point Greda curses the farm’s spring, telling Elber and Vonceil that it will only run salt water till he forsakes his family and comes lives with her in Sere.
Guilt-stricken at the thought that it was her own injudicious longing that caused all this, Vonceil embarks on a perilous mission to find Greda and Sere and lift the curse. Resourceful and smart, she figures out how to find this mythical place, making unlikely friends and rescuing the helpless in the process. But Greda won’t lift the curse without exacting a price, one that may be more than even brave Vonceil can pay.
Gosh, I cried at the end of this lovely, moving book, which moved me in a way I haven’t felt since reading Mark Siegel’s brilliant Sailor Twain. Salt Magic effortlessly blends American history and folklore with entirely new fantastic constructs to build a truly unique fairy tale suitable for ages 10 and up. Rebecca Mock’s wonderfully emotive illustrations breathe life into Hope Larson’s smart, thoughtful story, occasionally hiding important plot points in plain sight, where they can sneak up on the reader for another emotional sucker punch after you’ve just gotten over the first few.
I really hope these authors write more set in this wildly original universe they’ve created. There are so many rich, wonderful characters I’d love to revisit in future books, especially if their stories are told as movingly as Vonceil’s was here.
Salt Magic by Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock was published October 12 2021 by Margaret Ferguson Books and is available from all good booksellers, including