The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

The Lost Girl

Anne Ursu, Author

Erin McGuire, Drawings

Walden Pond Press, Fiction, Feb. 12, 2019

Pages: 356

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Twin sisters, Differences, Bond, Magical realism, Mystery, Friendship

Opening: “The two sisters were alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different.”

Synopsis: When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark is inventive, dreamy, and brilliant — and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, it is decided that Iris and Lark Maguire should be split into different classrooms. Something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident and acts out at school. Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school.

At the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them when things both great and small go missing without a trace. And a peculiar store, “Treasure Hunters,” opens across the street from the Maguire home. The sisters are intrigued with the odd messages that appear on sign outside the shop –“We Are Here,” “We Are Hunters,” “We Can Find Anything.” While Lark focuses on redecorating a doll house, Iris is secretly trying to uncover the mystery of what is hiding behind the walls of this unusual shop with its very peculiar owner and a crow perched outside. Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye in her neighborhood. She decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

Why I like this book:

Anne Ursu has written an exhilarating, multi-layered and complex novel that touches on magic and realism. The Lost Girl is a coming-of-age story about the magic of sisterhood. The magic of friendships you least expect. The magic of losing yourself, but discovering you are stronger than you imagine. But there is another mysterious magic lurking nearby that is morphing into something that is far more sinister and dangerous.  Fans will find her plot twist suspenseful and gripping and cheer for the sisters “when the monsters really come.”

Ursu is a lyrical writer, so readers will experience many poetic turns of phrases. The storytelling is exceptional, because a mysterious narrator tells the twins’ story, adding another layer of meaning and wonder. I will admit it did drive me crazy trying to identify the narrator. But, never fear. All is revealed at the end. McGuire’s beautiful pen and ink drawings compliment the story and draw readers deeply into the mystery.

Ursu’s character development is outstanding as she aptly captures how teen girls express themselves. In the beginning Iris and Lark appear to be normal girls, who are different in the way they dress and see the world. But they perfectly balance each other with their strengths and weaknesses. Iris is practical and Lark sees beyond the story. The twin bond is powerful and the story revolves around their relationship. Readers really begin to understand the twins when they are separated at school and join different afterschool clubs. Lark retreats into herself and Iris acts out. And I would be remiss in not mentioning Iris’s gang of capable girlfriends who appear to help the twins defeat the darkness in an unusual turn of fate.

The Lost Girl is an excellent book for school libraries and for group discussions. It is an exciting mystery, a tribute to family, sisterhood and new friendships, and finding yourself when you feel lost.

Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Amazon.com., and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was long listed for the National Book Award and chosen as one of the New York Public Library’s “One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing.” You can visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt

Gracie and Katie

Susanne Merritt, Author

Liz Anelli, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Twins, Art, Creativity, Sisterhood, Individuality

Opening: “Grace and Katie loved to draw. Grace’s drawings were filled with straight lines, squares and angles. Katie’s drawings were filled with patterns, squiggles and swirls.”

Publisher Synopsis: Grace and Katie are twins who love to draw. Grace loves everything to be organized and neat, while Katie loves everything to be bright, bold and messy. When they want to draw a map of their home and street, the girls can’t agree on how it should be done so they each decide to create their own map. But that doesn’t work out as well as they’d planned. Perhaps working together might be more fun after all!

Why I like this book:

Grace and Katie is an imaginative exploration of individuality, sisterhood, creativity and appreciating each other’s talents.  It will win the hearts of many budding artists.

The book focuses on twins in a way that emphasizes each girl’s individual strengths. Each sister has a unique perspective on art. And they have a different ways of expressing themselves. When Katie adds colorful touches to Grace’s map, and Grace gives Katie’s map more structure, they learn that working together can be a lot more fun.

Grace and Katie encourages kids to express their creativity and realize that there is no right or wrong way to be an artist. The topic of map making is woven throughout the story, making this a valuable resource to explore visual literacy. Children will find this story a very satisfying read.

Liz Anelli’s delightful illustrations combine both heart and design. They are delightfully bold and appealing. There is such vivid detail, especially in the cityscape scenes.  You can tell Anelli has a flare for architecture which blends beautifully with this empowering story of individuality.

Resources: This is a great resource to celebrate creativity at home and school. It is also a great resource to teach children about creating and reading maps.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.