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"For the first time in the [26-year]history of the survey—conducted five times since 1982—the overall adult literary r... More
Summary: Welcome to Northern Joya, an icy land where horses can ice skate and pink clouds communicate. Marvel (a horse) lives here with her two older sisters, Brilliance and Luster. When Joya's king and queen discover a child in a frozen pond, the whole village sets out to create their very first bonfire. This melts the ice, turning it into a great river. Spring arrives. The child, named Lee, has no idea how she ended up in this strange land and is desperate to go home. The king and queen teller her that is she follows the river's current, she will find Treasure House, the portal to Earth. Marvel, who had befriended Lee, volunteers to accompany her along for her journey. They are joined by Bonzo the mastiff and Beanie the pug. The four friends swim along the dark and dirty sewage; encounter the Spigot-von-Glume, a monster created by pollution; and meet the honey-bunnies and talking flowers. Along the way, Lee tries to recollect on how she ended up in the frozen pond. She can remember that a car accident caused by her father, who was drunk. As she continues to ponder on her current situation, they face their final challenge: the Darkling Orblock. After they cleverly get past the monster, Lee enters the Treasure House, briefly seeing her sister Claire before she is transported to Earth. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a hospital, and her parents explain that she had just been in a coma. Claire had died in the accident. Lee and Marvel, in their own worlds, cry, knowing that they will never have a chance to make a proper farewell with each other. This is an illustrated fantasy with a girl and her horse.
Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book, illustrated chapter
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 9 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Readers may be skeptical about this book, but it is a strangely charming story - even for teenagers. Many of the childish elements are too adorable to scoff at. The tone is something very similar to fairy tales, and at times it might seem cliche, but the reader will end up forgiving the author because it is so cleverly done. Young readers who are seven or eight would probably enjoy this tale the most. It is the perfect transition book for those who are leaving behind the picture stories and starting longer, chapter books.
The author raises issues like alcoholism and environmentalism. While they are not pleasant, young readers need to understand current issues. Through this story, the readers may learn a lesson about how our nature reacts to our actions, like pollution and oil dumping. For older readers, it is a relieving break from the complicated novels of today. Even readers who like lots of action will enjoy this book that takes you to the kind of fairy land that you dreamed about when they were young.
Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Pros: This is a charming, engaging story for transitional readers.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a nice story to read.
Educational Themes: Although this is a fantasy, the author weaves in issues today's children deal with: alcholism and global warming. There are also lessons in teamwork, communication, and family. Given the ending, there is also an opportunity to talk about death and grief.