One of my favorite graphic novels I read in 2021 was Salt Magic written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock. While I think it’s written for middle grade students and features a protagonist of that age, it has more of a YA feel to me. This was a really engaging and memorable story that I devoured in one sitting and was on my mind for days!
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The summary, from Amazon:
When a jealous witch curses her family’s well, it’s up to Vonceil to set things right in an epic journey that will leave her changed forever.
When Vonceil’s older brother, Elber, comes home to their family’s Oklahoma farm after serving on the front lines of World War I, things aren’t what she expects. His experiences have changed him into a serious and responsible man who doesn’t have time for Vonceil anymore. He even marries the girl he had left behind.
Then a mysterious and captivating woman shows up at the farm and confronts Elber for leaving her in France. When he refuses to leave his wife, she puts a curse on the family well, turning the entire town’s water supply into saltwater. Who is this lady dressed all in white, what has she done to the farm, and what does Vonceil’s old uncle Dell know about her?
To find out, Vonceil will have to strike out on her own and delve deep into the world of witchcraft, confronting dangerous relatives, shapeshifting animals, a capricious Sugar Witch, and the Lady in White herself–the foreboding Salt Witch. The journey will change Vonceil, but along the way she’ll learn a lot about love and what it means to grow up.
Hope Larson is the author and illustrator of the Eisner Award nominated All Summer Long and the illustrator of the Eisner Award winning A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel. Salt Magic is an utterly unique graphic fairy tale complete with striking illustrations by Rebecca Mock.
Buy Salt Magic here.
When Vonceil’s big brother Elber returns from WWI, she expects her best friend to be back under the same roof with her, but Elber has matured during the war and is no longer a child. He quickly becomes married and moves into the shack on their family’s property with his new wife. But when a glamorous woman arrives, claiming she had a relationship with Elber in France, things go from bad to worse. The woman is a salt witch and places a curse on Vonceil’s town that only worsens the drought. Elber falls ill and is unable to do anything about it, but Vonceil knows she must do something to save her family and her town.
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What an engaging story! Vonceil’s journey has her meeting a sugar witch and learning about the salt witch’s history and how it is connected to Vonceil’s family. Salt Magic had me rooting for Vonceil and empathizing with the villain. We all just want love, whether that’s with a romantic partner or the love of a family member. Vonceil makes some tough decisions to save her family and town, but the outcome of these decisions were inevitable. Vonceil’s journey mirrors her brother. Time and trauma age people, and childhood best friends may very well go their separate ways as their youth comes to an end.
This was a total 5 star read for me and I’m so glad I got the chance to delve into it one slow afternoon at work!
Find out more about how I rate books here.
Salt Magic by Hope Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I adored this book. Leans on the YA side of middle grade. Lovely art and such a good read.
Book Club Questions
- Elber has always been much older than Vonceil, so why now is he finally no longer a child and doesn’t feel as close to her?
- Are the salt witch’s actions in any way justified, or do the motives behind them at least make sense?
- The price Vonceil pays to undo the curse does includes aging her two years, her family never seeing her the same again, and her brother never being close with her again. Were all or some of these outcomes inevitable anyway?
- How does Vonceil’s journey relate to Elber’s experience?
Interested? Buy Salt Magic.
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