Friday, May 4, 2012

Fairy Tale Girl Pick: Falling In

Falling In
by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
April 2012 (paperback edition)
245 pages

Mesmerizing, memorable, magnificent, and magical, Falling In has everything a great girl book must have: a fantastic, fierce, and feisty female protagonist, a quirky quest, a magical setting, fantastical beings, all controlled by the rules of a fairy tale world.

Isabelle marches to the beat of her own drummer; she hates "girly" things that all the other middle school girls seem to like. She hates the mall, preferring to find her own clothes--near a garbage can or at the consignment store. Her favorite boots are a little too big and very red, but they make her stand out. Isabelle dislikes school, too. The teachers are sad and boring most of the time. About teachers, Isabelle says:

"Teacher's colleges had equipped them to handle nose pickers, fire starters, back talkers, hitters, biters, and whiners. But quiet girls who weren't shy, girls who talked in riddles but were never actually rude, girls who simply refused to comb those confounded bangs out of their eyes, well, girls like that were beyond them."

When Isabelle gets in trouble and sent to the principal's office, she never actually makes it there. First she sits down to admire her boots and then watches a classmate enter the nurse's office. Seconds later, she hears a scream. She investigates, of course. Charley swears she's seen a mouse--not an ordinary field mouse--this mouse seemed about ready to have a conversation with her! Isabelle opens the closet in the nurse's office and FALLS IN and finds herself in another world entirely. There are doors like that, you know, doors that lead to another possibility if you'd only open them (a wink to the author).

The first kids Isabelle meets mistake her for the witch who has been terrorizing their little towns, devouring innocent children and babies. Then she meets Hen, a girl in the woods who needs help finding her friends. After twisting her ankle, Isabelle is "saved" by a woman named Grete who seems strange to Hen but seems magically soothing to Isabelle.

Isabelle feels at home in this fairy tale world where cures are herbal and natural and life is slower and wiser. It suits her pace and sense of whimsy. She tells Grete that she's decided to stay. As fate would have it, Isabelle FALLS OUT and returns to her mother, but realizes that her mother has a magic of her own. Isabelle says:

"The doors are out there. If you could just twist a few out-of-the-way doorknobs, check the custodian's closet at your school, pay attention to the ground under the soles of your shoes--If you feel a buzz beneath your toes, let me know."

Most of the story is told by Isabelle, but the author interrupts now and then to tell the reader some back story about fairies or magic. I loved the way the author spoke directly to the reader, admonishing her to pay attention or warning her about some fairy magic.

Highly, highly recommended for any reader who enjoys a funny story about a stange girl who doesn't really ever want to "fit it" with the popular kids, a girl who really wants to meet a witch and believes that she herself is a changeling planted in the real world by fairies. Isabelle will have many avid followers and that band of merry misfits will cheer when a true individual wins.

Grades 4-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not received moentary compensation for this review.