Thursday, October 23, 2008

Girlwood-- Claire Dean

One of my favorite school librarians once told me that she always reads the author bio before she starts a book. Inspired by her, before reading Girlwood, I decided to check out Claire Dean's brief bio in the back of her book. This is what it says:

Claire Dean writes from a bright green house behind an ever-growing garden in Idaho. She was inspired to write Girlwood for her daughter who asked for a story about good stuff. "When I asked her what she meant, she said, 'You know, about hope and magic and fairies and girls.' Good stuff indeed."

I don't know why, but that really touched me... it made me really excited to read the book. Okay, enough with the sap, on to the book.

Girlwood takes place in Idaho in a town that was once on the edge of a massive forest. Developers are clearcutting in order to make room for million dollar houses, and Polly and her grandmother Baba are doing everything they can to stop this. When Polly's sister Bree runs away, Polly and Baba are convinced she is living in the woods. There is subtle magic throughout the book... Dean alludes to fairies and dryads; Polly can see auras, her Baba is a healer, and her friend Olivia can talk to wolves. Still, even with the subtle magic and supernatural references, I would consider this book to be realistic fiction. There is something quite moving about the way Polly and Baba care for the trees and the forest, and reading this book made me want to run outside and climb the tallest tree I could find.

This book reminded me of Madapple, which I read for our Mock Printz event but didn't blog about because I want to let your opinions be uninfluenced by moi. The protagonists of both Madapple and Girlwood have great knowledge of wild plants and their uses, both for physical and spiritual healing. Also, in both books, each chapter starts with a brief description of an herb, flower, or tree, and lists the folklore and the healing properties of each plant.

Although Girlwood wouldn't make my list of favorite books of 2008, nor was it incredibly well written, I quite liked it, and would be happy to pass it on to teen girls. It would be appropriate for a wide range of ages; I would say 12-18 even though Polly is only 13 years old. Girls who like books about magic (especially earthbased magic like Wicca, not the Hollywood-witchcraft-magic type stuff), nature, stories about friendship, stories set in the Northwest, and elementals like fairies, should enjoy this book.

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