Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Water and the Wild

The Water and the Wild

Spring 2015 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: K. E. Ormsbee
Illustrator: Elsa Mora
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9781452113869
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Lottie Fiske, a lonely orphan, has only one friend. And that one friend, Eliot, keeps getting sicker and sicker with an illness that no doctor is able to cure. Lottie is so desperate to save Eliot that she puts a letter in the apple tree outside her window, addressed to the mysterious benefactor who has previously tucked surprise birthday gifts into the hollow of the tree. This time, Lottie wants a cure for her friend. She doesn't expect to get it; still less does she expect to be whisked away through the roots of the apple tree to a parallel world where sprites and will-o'-the-wisps war with each other. There, Lottie finds that Eliot may be curable after all; but first, she is entangled in the political plots of sprites resisting the reign of an oppressive king. In order to save both the sprites and her friend, she undertakes a journey with some new-found companions, whom she discovers are children as lonely as she.

This imaginative debut novel will draw middle-grade readers in with its lively plot and appealing characters. By far the most successful aspect of the novel is the character development of Lottie's traveling companions. Lottie must learn to care about haughty Adelaide, shy Oliver, and charming, angry Fife as much as she cares about Eliot, and so the reader grows to, as well; the scenes of their developing friendship provide the emotional heart of this novel. In some respects, this fantasy clearly echoes many other classics of the genre-traveling through trees, forming unlikely friendships on a journey, and overthrowing an evil ruler in fulfillment of a prophecy are staple plot points. Nevertheless, this kind of predictability may be an attraction for young fantasy fans. The dialogue is stilted, at times, as the author echoes British speech, but sets Lottie's human life on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Again, young readers are likely to overlook this issue. Children who love Narnia and Harry Potter and are hungry for more parallel world fantasy will be glad to spend a few enjoyable hours in Lottie's world of sprites.

Naomi Lesley   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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