Mischief, Mayhem and Magic

Review of "A Tale Magnolious"

Nitty Luce has known only rejection, criticism and hunger in the ten years she’s lived at the Grimsgate Orphanage. Though she fears the headmistress’s threats of what will happen to orphans who run away, one day she ventures far from the despicable home into the nearby town and encounters a grim sight. A crowd gathering by the travelling Gusto and Gallant Circus is anticipating the hanging of an elephant, the Great Magnolious, who is accused of killing his trainer.

Nitty is moved with compassion for the maligned animal, and thinks, “Elephants must surely be like orphan girls: creatures sorely misunderstood and blamed for a host of troubles they had nothing to do with.”

Nearby, Nitty comes upon a tinker who is selling emerald-like seeds. When she asks the tinker what grows from the seeds, he replies that it depends on who the farmer is and what he or she wants them to grow. When the tinker looks away, Nitty steals the seeds and runs away.

A violent dust storm suddenly swoops down on the crowd, just as a policeman tries to grab Nitty, accusing her of being a thief. Nitty finds shelter under Magnolious, and, in a surprising turn of events, the two fugitives escape.

So begins Nitty’s adventure with Mag – the name she calls her new friend – and the numerous townspeople of Fortune’s Bluff: curmudgeonly Windle Homes, who takes Nitty and Mag in, reluctantly at first, then wholeheartedly; Twitch, a boy who suffers from dust pneumonia, and is a self-declared sleuth who knows that villainy is afoot because the town is suffering more from dust storms than any of the surrounding towns; and Beatrice, a girl who joins Nitty and Twitch to bring justice and restoration to Fortune’s Bluff.

Set in the 1930s Dust Bowl years in the United States, author Suzanne Nelson’s funny, suspenseful, and emotionally-rich novel is sure to delight middle school readers.

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