HOPE LARSON made a splash in 2006 with the Eisner Award-winning Gray Horses, a dreamy, elegant little book about a French college student who takes a year to study abroad.

It may surprise fans of Gray Horses to discover that Larson's newest, Mercury, is very much a children's book. (It will come as no surprise, after reading Mercury, to learn that Larson recently announced she'll be writing and illustrating an upcoming graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. [Insert unbecoming fangirl squeal here.] It's hard to imagine a better choice.)

Mercury follows Josey, a young girl living in French Hill, Nova Scotia; and Tara, a descendent of Josey who lives in the same town 150 years later. Hidden treasure, mommy issues, and One Magic Pendant to Rule Them All make for fairly standard, girlified historical fiction—it vaguely feels as though Mercury should have a series of tie-in dolls, American Girl style.

But while the story fails to make a strong impression, the real pleasure here is in how Larson tells it—she's an accomplished cartoonist whose storytelling style marries cleverness, visual economy, and sheer charm. Witness the book's opening pages, which present a time-lapse history of the region where the book is set; or a moment where Josey falls off a horse and her vision gets so scrambled we can hardly read the speech bubble of the person talking to her. In Larson's capable hands, even a timeworn story looks fresh again.