When Vonceil’s older brother, Elber, comes home from World War I, he does the worst thing imaginable: proposes to his boring sweetheart, Amelia. Long gone is her mischievous brother. He’s changed into someone quieter, more responsible, more… ordinary. Vonceil can’t forgive him that. She sometimes feels too big for their small Oklahoma farm near their small Oklahoma town. Shortly after Elber and Amelia’s wedding, a glamorous woman named Greda comes to town, asking for him. They had had an affair while he was in Paris. When Elber refuses her pleas to come away with her, she flies into a rage and curses the family’s well, turning it to salt water. Feeling responsible, Vonceil sets out across the West to undo the curse and save her family.

I was totally absorbed by this middle-grade Wild West fantasy. Though there are truly some unique fantastical elements, it’s firmly rooted in reality. Research was obviously done to ensure all the details of rural life between the World Wars was accurate.

Speaking of details, there was something Studio Ghibli-esque about this graphic novel. I think a lot of it had to do with the high attention given to all those little touches. The character designs were similar as well: Vonceil’s short stature, cropped black hair, and wide face reminded me of Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. In addition, magical elements being strongly rooted in reality is another Ghibli touch. Though the colors here are muted to sun-bleached or salt-stained tones, it felt like reading a Ghibli movie in every way but name.

Middle-grade readers and up will enjoy this tale of love, sacrifice, and living life to the fullest. Apparently this is Larson and Mock’s second graphic novel – excuse me while I seek out the first 😉

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, and Rebecca Mock. Salt Magic. 2021.