Falling In a modern trip Through the Looking Glass

April 15, 2010 at 8:52 am

Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell; published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York; 2010.

What if Alice fell through the Looking Glass today?  Where would that rabbit hole be?  What would the strange other world look like?  If you’re Isabelle Bean, you know that the rabbit hole is in the closet in the nurse’s office at school.  That strange, new world?  Well, it’s more like something from The Wizard of Oz or Hansel and Gretel.  Isabelle falls into a world where children from five villages take turns migrating during different seasons; they spend a season in a camp far away from their own villages, far away from adults.  According to the storyteller, about 50 years ago an evil witch started traveling from village to village eating the children.  That was her revenge for the children that took her baby.  How can Isabelle save the children, or the witch, for that matter?  Will she ever see her mother again?  Will she want to return to her world, where she is the awkward, friendless child who is often the target of bullies?

Dowell has done it again.  She has woven a tale, told expertly by a narrator who is a born storyteller, a narrator that has readers falling in this story from page one.  This book will not be a hard sell to readers in grades 4-6, and perhaps even older middle schoolers.  The design of the inside of the book is spot on as well.  Often, little botanical sketches appear; sometimes they include a little information about the healing powers of individual plants, supporting the idea that the “witch’s” magic is really just knowing how to use the natural elements around her.  These touches, the storyteller’s narrative, and Dowell’s theme are woven into perfect little novel.  No wonder it received a Booklist starred review!

This book belongs in a display with Alice in Wonderland.  With Disney’s new live-action movie in theaters now, a display (or at least a pathfinder) with stories that borrow from Lewis Carroll’s story would be popular.  It could include a variety of media (DVD of Disney’s original feature cartoon, yes?) and books for readers of all ages, including Carroll’s original, this book, and Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

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Entry filed under: Starred Review Book (Horn Book, Booklist. School Library Journal, Kirkus or PW). Tags: , , .

Buckeye Children’s Book Award nominees just announced When You Reach Me (or Things that Win the Newbery Medal)


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