Dust Girl (American Fairy Trilogy Series #1)

Dust Girl (American Fairy Trilogy Series #1)

3.4 9
by Sarah Zettel
     
 

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Fans of Libba Bray’s The Diviners will love the blend of fantasy and twentieth-century history in this stylish series.

Callie LeRoux is choking on dust. Just as the biggest dust storm in history sweeps through the Midwest, Callie discovers her mother's long-kept secret. Callie’s not just mixed race—she's half fairy, too. Now, Callie's

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Overview

Fans of Libba Bray’s The Diviners will love the blend of fantasy and twentieth-century history in this stylish series.

Callie LeRoux is choking on dust. Just as the biggest dust storm in history sweeps through the Midwest, Callie discovers her mother's long-kept secret. Callie’s not just mixed race—she's half fairy, too. Now, Callie's fairy kin have found where she's been hidden, and they're coming for her.

While dust engulfs the prairie, magic unfolds around Callie. Buildings flicker from lush to shabby, and people aren’t what they seem. The only person Callie can trust may be Jack, the charming ex-bootlegger she helped break out of jail.

From the despair of the Dust Bowl to the hot jazz of Kansas City and the dangerous beauties of the fairy realm, Sarah Zettel creates a world rooted equally in American history and in magic, where two fairy clans war over a girl marked by prophecy.

A strong example of diversity in YA, the American Fairy Trilogy introduces Callie LeRoux, a half-black teen who stars in this evocative story full of American history and fairy tales.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen's Books 2012

VOYA - Marissa Wolf
Blackened skin, pneumonia, and poverty—such is the life for Callie and many others during the Dust Bowl. Callie's life changes forever when she learns that her missing father is heir apparent to the Unseelie Court, making her half fairy, and her mother is allegedly kidnapped by rival fairies. Aided by a young hobo named Jack, Callie sets off on a journey to the West to seek answers about her heritage. In doing so, Callie finds herself in the middle of a fairy war and political coup. Callie is tempted to trust her newfound kin and be a part of a world where skin color and religion—prejudices that have forced both Callie and Jack to hide who they really are—do not matter. Callie soon finds, however, that there is more to fear from her father's family than she was led to believe. Zettel makes a unique contribution to the repertoire of young adult fairy fiction with her first book in The American Fairy Trilogy by grounding her story in Depression-era Kansas. The story has intriguing characters and a fast-paced plot filled with action, humor, and suspense. The time period is well researched, making it a good choice for historical fiction fans. Readers who devour fairy fiction will enjoy this refreshing read; however, those who prefer their fantasy with more world building and in-depth characterization may not appreciate this type of storytelling. This book is recommended for libraries with a strong historical or fairy fiction following. Reviewer: Marissa Wolf
Children's Literature - Naomi Milliner
Book One in "The American Fairy Trilogy," this historical fiction/fantasy hybrid is set in 1935 in the Dust Bowl of Kansas. Calliope LeRoux is as unusual as her name. The daughter of a white woman and a black jazz pianist, after her mom disappears in a huge dust storm, Callie learns the truth about her origins. It turns out the father she never met was a fairy prince; so, not only is she fairy royalty—she is "Heir to the Midnight Throne." Along with this title, she also discovers special powers, including the ability to see, and (appear to) grant other people's wishes, and to open time windows. Determined to find both her mother and father, Callie and a Jewish boy named Jack team up and head for California. Unfortunately, they encounter numerous obstacles before even making it out of Kansas, including: life-sized locusts disguised as humans; a violent private detective threatening to put them on the chain gang; untrustworthy fairies out to get rid of Callie; and even bigotry and anti-Semitism. Throw in some Woody Guthrie tunes, several kind-of-but-not-really-dead characters, and the kitchen sink, and you've got Dust Girl. Zettel's writing is without fault, and Callie is a unique, sympathetic and resourceful heroine. Still, the plot is hard to follow and harder to swallow. It would perhaps be better as two separate books: one historic fiction, one fantasy. Thumbs-up only for readers who enjoy mixed genres. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner
Kirkus Reviews
A mixed-race girl in Dust Bowl Kansas discovers her long-lost father isn't just a black man: He's a fairy. Callie has been passing as white her whole life, helping her Mama in rundown Slow Run, Kan. But now it doesn't seem to matter that she keeps her "good skin" out of the sun and softens her "coarse" hair, because it seems everyone's left the dust-choked town. Even Mama is gone now, vanished in a preternatural dust storm that summoned a strange man who tells Callie secrets of her never-met father. Soon Callie's walking the dusty roads with Jack, a ragged white kid. If Callie's dad is a fairy, then the two young'uns will just have to go to fairyland to find him. Callie and Jack dodge fairy politics and dangers, from grasshopper people to enchanted food to magic movie theaters--but the conventional dangers are no less threatening. Plenty of run-of-the-mill humans in 1935 Kansas don't like black girls or beggars, hobos or outsiders. With a historical note and a Woody Guthrie soundtrack, this novel does a fine job of blending a splendidly grounded Dust Bowl setting with a paranormal adventure. It's really too bad that the cover art depicts a white girl with flyaway hair, rather than Callie as written, a mixed girl who stops passing as white halfway through the story. Callie learns to be open about herself but her own cover art doesn't. This cracking good mixture of magic and place will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel. (Fantasy. 12-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Calliope LeRoux begins hearing voices the day her mother vanishes into the swirling dust of the worst storm in Kansas history. From Baya, a mysterious stranger she rescues from the deadly tempest, Callie discovers that she must travel to California to find her parents. She also learns that her father, whom she's never met, is a fairy who aggravated a feud between warring tribes by running off with her mortal mother. Moreover, there exists a prophecy about a half-blood girl with powers to manipulate doors between worlds, and it seems that Callie fits the bill. As she is pursued by dangerous otherworldly creatures and accompanied by Jack, a hobo boy with his own agenda, her quest becomes increasingly deadly. Much weighs on her success. The story of warring fairy factions is not new, nor is that of the fae girl who is instrumental in their fate. Yet, Zettel puts a fresh, imaginative spin on the old tale. Period details about the Depression-era dust bowl supply an authentic, atmospheric feel, as does the first-person narrative. Nonstop action will keep readers hooked. Some loose threads remain, but these will hopefully be knitted together in sequels.—Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375869389
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
06/26/2012
Series:
The American Fairy Trilogy, #1
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

1

In a Month Called April, a County Called Gray

Once upon a time, I was a girl called Callie. That, however, ended on Sunday, April 14, 1935. That was the day the worst dust storm ever recorded blew across Kansas. That was the day Mama vanished.

That was the day I found out I wasn't actually a human being.

Now, mind, I didn't know any of this when my cough woke me up that morning. Hot, still air, damp with my own breath, pressed against my face, and my tongue felt as stiff and strange as the sole of somebody else's shoe inside my mouth. Unwinding the muslin scarf, which Mama made me wear over my mouth and nose when I slept, didn't help much. It was already too hot and too dusty to breathe easy. Through the layers of sackcloth and muslin that we used for curtains, I could see the sun hovering like a rotten orange over the straight black Kansas horizon. Dust carried by the wind scratched and pattered against the windowpane, trying to get inside.

I lived with my mama in the Imperial Hotel in Slow Run, Kansas. Once, it was the finest hotel in the county, with its Moonlight Room, and the smoking lounge all decked out in red velveteen and gold fringe, and a ladies' parlor sporting an Italian marble fireplace so big I could stand up in it. Even empty, it was the biggest, grandest home imaginable.

Slow Run itself was not a place you ever heard of, unless you had to live there or stop overnight on your way somewhere else. Used to be a lot of people did stay overnight. A lot of things used to happen in Slow Run. The trains used to bring in travelers and take out carloads of wheat from the grain elevator. Mama used to make plenty of money running the hotel her parents started.

It used to rain. But now Kansas was part of the Dust Bowl, along with Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, and had been for five, maybe six years. I could just about remember the time when I looked out my window to see the green wheat rippling all around the straight lines of clapboard buildings that made up Slow Run. Now there was nothing but the blowing dirt under that rotten orange sun.

I jumped off my brass bed, ran to the bathroom, and switched on the tap. Water came out in a thin gray stream, but at least it came. It didn't always. I drank a little to rinse my mouth. It tasted like old tin. I plugged the basin drain and ran about an inch of water into the sink so I could scrub my face and hands with the little piece of store-bought soap. I wiped myself down with the washrag so the soap wouldn't get into the basin water. I got store-bought soap because of my good skin, Mama said. My skin was cream-colored and soft with not too many freckles. But that meant I had to take special care of it, and always wear a hat and gloves when I went outdoors so I wouldn't turn brown. I had good eyes too, she said, a stormy blue-gray color that people said turned steel gray when I got mad. My hair was another story. My black hair was my mother's worst enemy. "So coarse," she'd mutter while she combed the tangles out. She'd wash it in lye water and lemon juice, when we could get them. But even when we couldn't, it had to be brushed a hundred strokes every night and kept done up in tight braids so it would be nicely wavy.

"When you're older, Callie, we'll put it up in a proper chignon," Mama told me. "It'll be so pretty. Until then, we'll just have to do our best."

Doing our best meant a lot of things to Mama. It meant keeping ourselves and the hotel clean, and minding our manners even when there was no one to see or care. It meant being patient, even on the worst days when my lungs felt so heavy from breathing in the blow dust all the time that they dragged my whole body down.

My workday dress used to be yellow, but wash soap and dust had turned it a kind of pale brown. I looped my scarf over my arm and carefully carried my wash water down the short, narrow hallway. Our staff quarters at the back of the hotel had two bedrooms, the kitchen, and a little sitting room. As expected, the kitchen was empty. Mama would be somewhere in the main part of the hotel, trying to chase Gray County back outside.

I scooped one cup of water out of my basin and poured slow drips onto the tomatoes growing in soup cans on the windowsill. The rest went into the tin bucket by the door for the chickens. Before opening the door, though, I pulled on my canvas work hat and gloves and tied my scarf securely over my face.

As soon as I stepped off the porch, sweat prickled on the back of my neck and at the edges of my scarf. The stems from our dead garden rattled in the hot wind. A brown grasshopper clung to one broken twig, waiting for a chance to get into the house and between my sheets.

I tried not to hate the hoppers, even when they got into the water basin or my shoes. The only reason we still had chickens was that the birds could live on hoppers and the little green worms that crawled out of the sunbaked fence posts.

The hens fought each other over the water while I helped myself at the nesting boxes. We were lucky today. Six warm brown eggs went into my pockets. My mouth watered. Maybe we could sell a few at the store for flour, or milk, or even butter, if there was any at Van Iykes's Mercantile. The mercantile was the last store in town. There used to be a choice between Van Iykes's and Schweitzer's Emporium. But last week, Mr. and Mrs. Schweitzer locked their doors, tossed the key in the dust, climbed into their truck with their babies, Sophie and Todd, and drove away. Mama and I stood out on the porch and watched them leave.

"Cowards," I muttered, because I didn't want to think about how much I wanted to leave with them.

As if that thought was a signal, my cough started up again, in sharp little bursts. It hurt, but not as much as knowing Mama would never leave Slow Run.

The truth was, Mama was kind of crazy, and had been for years, but there was nothing anybody could do about it. Especially not me. She acted normal about most things. About everything, really, except my papa. My papa, Daniel LeRoux, had run out on Mama before I was born. He'd promised he would come back, and she'd promised she would wait for him. That promise kept us both pegged to this place while the state of Kansas dried up and blew away.

The wind swirled dust across the tops of my shoes and tugged at my skirts.

Look shhhhaaaarrrrp, said a slow, soft voice. Look -shhhhaaaarrrrp. Shhhheeee's nearrrr. . . .

"Who's that!" I spun around. But there was nobody there.

Shhhheeee's nearrrr . . . shhhheeee'ssss closssse. . . .

"Casey Wilkes, if that's you . . ." I ran around the corner of the hotel.

From here, the whole of Slow Run spread out stark and plain: the square clapboard and brick buildings marking out the straight, dust-filled streets; the four church steeples weathered a pale gray; the dusty tumbleweeds leaning lazily against the walls. Farther out, sagging barbed-wire fences ran alongside the black lines of the railroad tracks all the way to the hazy outline of the grain elevator, with the -spindly windmills standing sentry in between.

What there wasn't was any person close enough to whisper in my ear. Except I could still hear the soft, deep, strangely beautiful voice.

Closssser, closssser. Look shhhhaaaarrrrp. . . .

I turned and ran for the kitchen door.

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Kirkus Reviews Best of Teen's Books 2012

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