1 hour and ten minutes more read, 20 more minutes blogging, and finally a book from my tbr stack completed--Falling In, by Frances O'Roark Dowell (Simon and Schuster, 2010, middle grade, 245 pages). It took me a bit longer to read this one, because of being base in an outside game of tag for part of it (which means the boys were hurling themselves on me at high speed). It was also a slower read because about half way through I found myself enjoying it quite a lot...I was by no means certain during the first half.
It's the story of a girl named Isabelle, the sort of child who is cut from a different cloth, who has no friends and looks at things differently from other children...and one day she opens a door and finds herself falling into to a whole nother world. Not so dissimilar to ours, but more olde fashioned-y, not a a magically talking animal type world, but one in which the idea of witchcraft is given serious consideration. To such an extent that all the children of this new place all live in mortal terror of the witch who eats small children, when they are in season.
In this other world, Isabelle is befriended by a slightly younger girl, Hen, who has strayed from the path to the camp where the children have taken refugee from the witch. And when they are taken in by Grete, an older woman with a knack for herbal cures, it becomes pretty clear that rumors of witchly child-killing have been greatly exaggerated. Convincing everyone else that Grete is harmless is going to be a tough job...but Isabelle has formed an attachment to Grete stronger than then her bonds with the people of her own old life, and she's willing to try.
I was doubtful at first, put off by what I found to be annoying and disruptive authorial insertions. For example, when the author asks "You want me to tell you where Isabelle is, don't you? You want me to spell it out for you, draw you a map, paint a picture" (page 32). I didn't exactly nod in agreement....
But, almost despite myself, I found found myself drawn into Isabelle's story, my reading speed slowing down as the author did, in fact, start making this place come alive for me. Isabelle and Hen's time with Grete is full of particulars of plant-lore, which I enjoyed lots, and, on a higher level, there are themes of not being quick to judge, appreciating differences, and recognizing other's gifts that are clearly stated, yet still nicely integrated into the story.
A more detailed and thoughtful review can be found here at Book Aunt, and here's another at Becky's Book Reviews.