Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer

The sea nearly encircles Greta’s Nova Scotia town and dominates it. It provides a living for the majority of the men, and its storms and tides take them to their deaths. It also provides the sea mists to which the title refers.

Greta, a not-quite-twelve year old girl, loves to walk in the fog, though her parents and the other adults cannot understand why the cold mists so attract her. One day, she wanders along in a particularly thick fog, and notices a house where there was none before. Only a foundation, surrounded by trees pressing up against what would have been the building walls. She asks her parents about it, and they tell her that there was a home there, one hundred years ago, but the family has long gone and the house crumbled. Greta cannot help but notice that while her mother is clearly telling of what is history gone and past, her father looks…well, just a bit shifty, as if there’s more to the story than what he’s telling her.

Nevertheless, nothing more can be got out of her parents. The remnants of what was once someone’s home draw Greta back over and over, but always the weather is sunny and the house only a tracery of foundation. It is not until she happens out one afternoon in another peculiarly thick mist that anything further comes of her vision: she passes the two sentinel rocks spanning the road as it goes over the high hill in back of town that a carriage passes her. A horse-drawn one, that ought not to exist in a world already mechanized.

The carriage driver, a woman in a luxe plum-colored silk dress, stops her horses to allow Greta to catch up, and takes her over the mountain to a fishing village that similarly is two centuries in Greta’s past. A family there welcomes her, bringing her in to warm herself by the fire and feeds her lunch. They are careful to send her back home before the mist rises, however.

Greta does not fully understand what has happened at first, and indeed there are no further mists for some days, but when the next one slips over the land from the ocean, she is off over the mountain to her strange yet somehow familiar friends in that antiquated town. As she becomes more involved in the “fog town”, she finds out more about life in Nova Scotia of the eighteenth century; in particular, one woman is about to lose the land that rightfully should have come to her at the death of her husband.

The woman’s plan to meet the prince delegated to administer to their province and convince him to give her title to the land is successful, but time is drawing to a close when Greta will be able to come to this place. On her twelfth birthday, the door in the fog will close to her. The mother of the family presents her with a kitten, gray and silent as the fog that brings her to this town, and promises that this last gift will not vanish with the mist as the other things did.

Upon Greta’s return home, her father recognizes where the kitten must have come from and shows her a pocketknife; while he does not say so explicitly, it’s clear that he too traveled to the village in the fog when he was a child.

Originally published in 1943, this is more than slightly tame by modern standards of middle-grade reading, but very sweet. This is another of the budding chicklit specials from the Scholastic catalog.

What to read next? Well, start with the Scholastic catalog, for one thing! There are a number of outright fantasies available, such as Redwall, but specifically if you liked the more or less realistic aspect (allowing for the trope of slipping between worlds when the mist rises), I’d suggest Magic Elizabeth by Norma Kassirer or Octagon Magic by Andre Norton. Norton also wrote Steel Magic, which is a bit more mythological in tone, as the children enter the court of King Arthur, but might also be enjoyable for kids who liked Fog Magic. Another possibility for kids who’ve outgrown these books is Ursula LeGuin’s The Beginning Place, which touches on that reluctance to grow up and leave the protective fantasies of childhood.


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