Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fumbling Through Fantasy: Fog Magic by Julia Sauer (1943)

On foggy days, 11-year-old Greta is able to travel back in time and visit the long-lost village of Blue Cove. There she meets Mrs. Morrill and her daughter, Retha, who become Greta's close friends. The visits continue for some months, giving Greta special glimpses into a past she has heard stories about her whole life. All  the while, though, Greta's twelfth birthday approaches. On this day, everyone seems to know, Greta will grow too old to experience the fog magic.

Fog Magic is a coming-of-age story, which focuses on the beauty of imagination during childhood and the loss of wonder and innocence that comes with age and maturity. Though the book was originally published in the 1940s, it is not necessarily confined to that time period. Rather, the universality of the knowledge that all children grow up makes it a timeless read.

Setting plays a major role in this book, and Sauer does a beautiful job of bringing the real world and the world of Blue Cove perfectly to life. She also manages to explain the magic of the fog - its limitations and its function - in subtle cues without spelling it out step by step. This approach contributes to the haunting, ethereal mood of the entire book, and helps the magic maintain its air of mystery.

Like The Light at Tern Rock, Fog Magic is a short novel with very precise, evocative writing. The moral is less heavy-handed in Fog Magic, but it still conveys a valuable lesson to which young readers in every generation can relate. The age of this book makes it somewhat difficult to find, and more difficult yet to sell to kids, but for those readers who like quiet, complex reads, this will be a special find. Other Newbery honor books that are similar to this one include Bright Island by Mabel Robinson (because of the setting) and The Fledgling by Jane Langton (because of the magic).

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