Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Review: Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Feeling like a changeling in her own world, sixth-grader Isabelle Bean falls into another, where she meets her healer grandmother, Grete, and corrects a misunderstanding that had terrorized generations of children. Although it uses traditional tropes and the faintly medieval setting of much of children’s fantasy, this perfectly paced story has enough realistic elements to appeal even to nonfantasy readers. The plot centers on Isabelle’s efforts to convince the other world’s children that her grandmother is not a wicked witch. This task is complicated but ultimately accomplished by Grete’s accidental poisoning at the hands of a small boy. The storyteller’s voice is evidenced by the opening line (“On the morning this story begins”) and occasionally interrupts the narrative with explanation and rumination. The decidedly opinionated narrator’s privileged stance lends a sense of directness and immediacy to the telling, and the adult perspective allows for more complex language and deeper understanding. Dreamy and distractible, Isabelle is an appealing protagonist whose newfound gift for hearing calls for help reflects how she has grown up enough to see beyond herself. Like Isabelle, her story has that “barely visible edge of otherworldliness” that gives it power. Grades 4-7. --Kathleen Isaacs
I am only 16 pages in and I have begun my review. Why? This book has grabbed some of my emotions and tugged them back and forth. I started off hesitant of this book because once again a story starts off with a flat character with nothing more than being mean and non-understanding. What type of character do you ask? A teacher! I am a teacher and this drives me nuts. Why does every teacher have to be ugly, old, mean, cruel, no passion for students, etc.? I was ready to stop reading, but I decided that was not truly a good enough reason to give this book a try. So, I kept on reading and not even 5 pages later I feel the pain and loneliness for the main character, Isabelle. This poor girl has been isolated for no other reason than being shy and slightly different. I see this happen from time to time at school and it breaks my heart. Why are kids so judgmental? I have these talks with my kids all the time because even at a young age they tend to be judgmental about people by their physical appearance. My heart went out to this fictional character especially when at the end of chapter 2 when it states”….she never gave up……..And she never gave up hope. She always kept a tiny sliver of it in her right pocket.” This has stuck with me even while I go back to this book to find out more.

Upon completing the novel

I love Isabelle. I think her eccentricities and her way of thinking is what every child should have growing up. The questions like “Do ice cubes ever feel cold?” or “Do pencils have dreams?” seem like weird questions, but really I found myself stopping and pondering the answers to these questions. In many ways this story reminded me of a newer version of Alice In Wonderland where you never know what is going to happen next or who is right around the corner.

What a fantastic read! I never, ever would have picked this book up had I seen it on the shelf at the library or book store. The cover does not grab me personally and even reading the inside sleeve did not do much for me. This just goes to prove that my Question to Ponder from earlier this week about judging a book by its cover is a bad decision because I never would have read this lovely story. Thank goodness for the Cybils for adding this to the list of books to be read. This novel is geared for ages 8-12 and is one you don’t want to miss.
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