Drizzle, by Kathleen Van Cleve

Drizzle, by Kathleen Van Cleve (Penguin, 2010, middle grade, 358 pages) tells of a magical rhubarb farm, where it rains every Monday at the same time, there's a lake you cannot drown in, the insects are big and smart, and so are some of the plants....Polly Peabody loves her farm, and her family (with the glaring exception of her big sister, who isn't exactly nurturing). But one Monday, the rain doesn't come, her beloved older brother falls ill, and the farm is in danger of being sold.

Polly seems to have a greater connection to the farm than anyone else in the family, so it falls to her to unlock the secrets of the farm. Polly isn't particularly brave, or smart, or determined--but she does care enough to keep trying, until at last she understands how to bring the magic back....

Polly is not my favorite heroine of the year. She makes a really rotten choice early in the book, loosing her temper with a beloved plant that is trying to help her figure out what is going on, and shredding him--pretty immature. She has a lot of growing up to do socially as well...and, although one can't cast stones, it's pretty easy to see why she doesn't have friends at school. She does gain confidence as the book progresses, though (partly through her reading of Emerson's Self Reliance, which is woven nicely into her story), and by the end of the book she's become more likeable.

(But the plant shredding really got to me. It's not simply that I love my own plants, but I just can't relate to anyone who practically kills her best friend in a fit of frustration.....Just by way of contrast, Tasha at Kid's Lit called Polly "a great protagonist.")

It was the magical setting of the farm, and the gradually unlocking of its mysteries, that carried me through the book. I was a tad afraid the farm would be magical in a twee sort of way--I'd heard that there was chocolate rhubarb growing there, and a magical umbrella ride, and it sounded a bit, um, childish. But it isn't; it's a lovely, enchanting place (edited to add, because I was just thinking about it some more) that combines the magic with a dash of science and considerable horticultural interest, very pleasing to those of us who like that sort of thing....

Here are some other reviews, at Searching for a Good Read, Eva's Book Addiction, and Kids Lit.


  1. This book looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. I always like seeing different POV reviews. It keeps me from having too high expectations.

  3. I've been wondering about this one... Thanks for the review!

  4. I love this cover and highlighted it awhile back. The story is one of those that sounds good but I wonder about whether its as good on the carry through. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Just finished reading DRIZZLE and found I was very upset by the shredding of Harry - and the way it was almost totally unresolved - also! He was a living, communicating thing and, as far as I could tell, there were no consequences for her actions beyond her remorse. Overall, though, the book did rise above potential "twee" aspects, as you put it. Yet again, I find myself really, REALLY wondering when heroines of kid's fantasy books can go back to being normal instead being defined by their unlikable-ness or impetuousness or stubbornness at the start of a story. Why can't girl heroines just be smart and brave and not have some personal emotional obstacle to overcome?

  6. I had forgotten the shredding of Harry--but re-reading what I wrote, I'm reminded how upsetting I too found it!

    I'm running through girl protagonists in my mind now...I think I must be on a good streak, because mostly the girls I've been reading about have been free of personal issues! But I know what you mean.


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