The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

 

The Swallow: A Ghost StoryThe Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Swallow: A Ghost Story, is such a wonderful, special book that I would pretty much recommend it to anyone.
This novel by Charis Cotter tells the story of the friendship between two 12-year-old girls living in┬áToronto in 1963. Polly is outgoing, bubbly, and passionate, with a love for books and chocolate, and a huge, busy family. Rose is introverted, pale, quiet, and loves to sing. Rose lives in a house adjoining Polly’s, and spends her time more or less alone, as her parents work long hours, and their housekeeper, Kendrick is a silent, brooding presence.
One afternoon, the two girls meet each other unexpectedly (in a very funny scene, which I won’t give away) and a very special friendship develops between these two seemingly opposite, but both, lonely, souls.
What follows is a story that is hard to describe, part mystery, part drama, part ghost story, but ultimately, a tale about friendship that transcends time and place.
In The Swallow, Charis Cotter has created something magical, something ineffable. Her story contains something that is more than the sum of its parts, or of its words and plot. The Swallow walks this fine line, like the crack between two worlds, or the mysterious space between life and death. The beautiful book cover captures the feel of this enchanting, ghostly, sad yet joyous novel perfectly.
The Swallow is the best of books, a middle grade novel that will appeal to adults as well as children, and a book that takes its readers into the creative space of imagination, in which anything is possible.

I received an advanced review copy of The Swallow: A Ghost Story, from the publisher via NetGalley.

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The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30) (Tiffany Aching, #1)The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30) by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is a lot to love about The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. In the main character of Tiffany Aching, Pratchett has created one of my favorite characters ever. She makes this book one that I would recommend that every mother give to her daughter to read. Tiffany’s self-respect, courage, calmness under pressure, and slight tendency to be a know-it-all, as well as the fact that she is utterly, unapologetically, herself, is incredibly refreshing. She is a welcome change from heroines whose main recommendations are their beauty or charming conversation.
Tiffany Aching reminds me of they way many young girls are before they are told that it’s not okay to yell, to run with the boys, to get dirty, to be “unlady-like.” And the wonderful thing about this story is that one gets the sense that while Tiffany matures during her adventures, she gains wisdom without losing herself. She will, one day, become an old woman, who is confident, wise, self-assured, and respected, even as she defies convention.
The Wee Free Men is all the more powerful because it is not a lecture, or a dense work of nonfiction, but rather, a laugh-out-loud fantasy. It’s a good example of how a good story can change our perceptions and widen the possibilities that we view for ourselves.
The greatest strengths of the story are Tiffany herself, the beautiful rural setting, and the Wee Free Men, whose diminutive size is equaled only by their huge joy of stealing, drinking, and fighting (often at the same time). For the first third of the book, I would have given it 5+ stars.
However, for me, the weakest part of the story was the plot itself, which like other fantasies I have read, eventually meandered and petered along into something that was more maze than magic.
I have had similar experiences while reading other young adult fantasies, such as A Wrinkle in Time, or even, the novels that follow C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe. For me, the most magical part of these stories is often the beginning, with a cold and stormy night, or the discovery of a snowy world inside of an old wardrobe.
However, despite the disappointing plot, The Wee Free Men is a book I would highly recommend for children and adults alike. It will cheer you up if you are sad, give you confidence if you are feeling weak, and make you love yourself just a little bit more. For these reasons, The Wee Free Men is priceless.

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