First Light

First Light

4.0 84
by Rebecca Stead

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PETER IS THRILLED to leave New York City to accompany his parents on an expedition to Greenland to study global warming. There he has visions of things that should be too far away for him to see.

Generations ago, the people of Thea’s community were hunted for possessing unusual abilities, so they fled beneath the ice. Thea needs help that only Peter can

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PETER IS THRILLED to leave New York City to accompany his parents on an expedition to Greenland to study global warming. There he has visions of things that should be too far away for him to see.

Generations ago, the people of Thea’s community were hunted for possessing unusual abilities, so they fled beneath the ice. Thea needs help that only Peter can give. Their meeting reveals secrets of both their pasts, and changes the future for them both forever.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Peter and Thea are vividly realized. . . . Gracehope itself is sketched with sure strokes, its icy setting and its matriarchal social structure fresh and believable.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“Stead’s debut novel rests on an intriguing premise. . . . It is a testament to the storytelling that the existence of this parallel world and the convergence of Peter and Thea’s stories, told in separate chapters, are both credible and absorbing. Young readers will find this a journey worth taking.”—Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Stead's debut novel rests on an intriguing premise-that a group of people with unusual powers was forced to flee England generations ago to live peacefully below the ice in the "cold world" of Greenland. Fourteen-year-old Thea is a strong-willed resident of Gracehope, named after the woman who sacrificed her life to fulfill her dream of resettling her community safely under the glaciers. However, Thea, the last woman in Grace's direct bloodline, insists that her ancestor's intention was never to stay in Gracehope forever, but to rejoin life on the surface. Her life is forever changed the day she and her cousin find a secret tunnel to the world above and meet Peter, the 12-year old son of two scientists from New York who are ostensibly researching global warming. Peter is a reticent child who, like his mother, suffers from headaches and unusual ailments. After a long build-up, including a seemingly ancillary scientific puzzle about DNA, the story takes on a livelier pace as the central mystery unfolds-the connection between Peter and Thea. It is a testament to the storytelling that the existence of this parallel world and the convergence of Peter and Thea's stories, told in separate chapters, are both credible and absorbing. Young readers will find this a journey worth taking. Ages 9-12. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Ruth Cox Clark
With global warming in the news, Stead's debut novel is a welcome addition. Twelve-year-old Peter is excited to join his parents on an expedition to study global warming in Greenland. His father, a glaciologist, and his mother, who is researching the impact of positive DNA mutations on cells, have made several trips, but it is the first time for Peter, who discovers how little there is to do. His boredom ends when the sled dogs drag him into a howling blizzard and he discovers a red circle imbedded in the ice. It marks the entrance to Gracehope, an underground hidden world to which fourteen-year-old Thea's people escaped years ago and which his parents have been trying to locate. The two worlds collide when Thea and her cousin Mattias locate the other end of the tunnel and climb up to explore a world they had only heard of, where the horizon is more than just a definition. When Mattias falls in a crevasse, Peter helps Thea rescue Mattias and guide their sled back down the tunnel into Gracehope. Chapters alternate between Thea's and Peter's perspective, familiarizing the reader with the self-sufficient colony of Gracehope and the role that Peter, who has inherited unique visual skills, and his mother, who grew up in Gracehope, play in the future of this safe haven that is slowly being destroyed by a world their leader shuns. It is an intriguing look at how global warming is affecting the arctic regions, deftly woven into a coming-of-age story.
Kirkus Reviews
With the impending threat of global warning as an ominous backdrop, teens from very different worlds find they have much in common. Twelve-year-old Peter and his parents leave Manhattan on a scientific expedition to Greenland where Peter's father and his assistant will study the effects of global warming. After settling into the frozen world, Peter senses his parents share a secret, while he experiences migraines with strange visual effects. Meanwhile, below Greenland's surface, 14-year-old Thea lives in Gracehope, an amazing underground colony settled generations before by a persecuted group of people from England. Descended from Gracehope's original founder, Thea is convinced the future of her people lies above the ground. While Peter's visions draw him toward Gracehope, Thea's convictions draw her toward the light. As Peter struggles to figure out his parents' secret, Thea grapples with secrets in her own family. Alternating between Peter and Thea's stories, this compelling contemporary ice-age mystery introduces two engaging characters whose personal courage is tested as they discover one another's worlds as well as the truth about themselves. Thoroughly enjoyable arctic adventure. (Fiction. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Peter travels to Greenland with his parents, where his dad is conducting research on global warming in Rebecca Stead's first novel (Wendy Lamb Bks., 2007). Thea lives in a settlement below the ice in Greenland, where her ancestors came for refuge from persecution many generations earlier. Unbeknownst to Peter, his mother once belonged to this secret world, known as Gracehope. Peter's parents want to find this settlement to warn the residents that their community is sinking because of global warming. Thea, whose mother died trying to help her people, wants to carry on her mother's work of finding a way out of Gracehope. She and her friend Mattias discover a tunnel that leads to the surface, but Mattias is injured on the way. Peter, gifted with sight adeptness, finds them and helps Thea take her unconscious friend back down to Gracehope. Thea's grandmother, the leader of the settlement, is enraged that the pair ventured to the surface. The story, told in the alternating points of view of Thea and Peter, is narrated by Coleen Marlo and David Ackroyd. Their outstanding performance engages listeners, and they are both adept at creating a different voice for each character and moving seamlessly between them. A good discussion starter on a range of topics from political subterfuge and propaganda to global warming.—Kathy Miller, Baldwin Junior High School, Baldwin City, KS

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.78(d)
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Rebecca Stead is a former attorney who lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. First Light is her first book.

Read an Excerpt


Most boys his age had never touched paper. There was little left. Paper was reserved for fine drawing and important documents. Mattias knew even before he could skate that if he were to harm any of it, if he were to crease one corner of one sheet, the consequences would be serious. But Mattias could not resist his mother’s drawing table. He loved the drawers and panels that opened almost without a sound, the bright vials of dye, the immaculate brushes on their small rack, the smooth wooden box of charcoal. And although he was a very obedient boy in almost every other way, he regularly explored the contents of the table when he found himself alone with it. Mattias knew its every measure, including the shape of the black dye stain that had dried inside one drawer before he was born. And each time he approached the table, he expected to find it exactly as he had always found it before.
Today he found something new.
It was a thick paper envelope, closed but unsealed, underneath his mother’s working sketches. Mattias unwound the string closure slowly, being careful to remember the length that should be left hanging when he tied it again. Inside was a square of paper unlike anything Mattias had ever seen. One side of the square glowed with an image in color, almost as if someone had frozen a moment in time and flattened it, capturing every detail. Even his mother, considered the most talented artist now alive, couldn’t create anything like this. Mattias turned it carefully in his hands, holding the square by its sharp corners. It was an image of two women. Sisters, he thought. And there was something else–a glowing blur behind them.
The sun.

Seven Years Later

A headache, Peter thought as he lay in bed with one arm thrown over his eyes, is something you have to experience to understand. No one can describe a headache to someone who has never had one. He rolled to one side and reached for the little spiral notebook on his night table.
Peter’s mother had gotten headaches for as long as he could remember. They sometimes lasted for days, during which she sat in the red chair next to the pull-out couch where his parents slept. She didn’t eat, or laugh, or make the “proper supper” she otherwise insisted upon. She hardly got up at all. “She’s gone away again,” his father would say. “But she’ll be back.” It happened maybe twice a year.
Everyone said how much Peter was like his mother– their skin that was nearly paper white, their all-over freckles, their wavy hair (hers dark, his blond like his father’s), even the way they sneezed (always twice), and laughed (very quietly, after one loud sort of bark). So Peter had always assumed that, like his mother, he would get headaches one day, and that, when he did, they would be headaches just like hers.
Peter paged through the worn notebook. It had his friends’ phone numbers in it, and the names of some video games he wanted if his parents ever let him get a video game, and the address of a company in Oregon that sold old radio parts for almost no money, and a bunch of other things. He flipped to the inside back cover, where he had made a series of slashes.
Just after his twelfth birthday, Peter’s mother began asking him whether he had a headache. She had never asked him that before, and he couldn’t help thinking it was strange she had to ask at all. Wouldn’t it be obvious when he had a headache? Wouldn’t he, too, sit in the living room and never smile or get hungry? But she kept asking, every week or two, always smiling carefully, as if she were expecting bad news. So they waited, together.
Peter got his first headache a few months later. He knew right away what it was, and three things surprised him about it. First, it lasted only a few hours. Second, although it hurt some, he was able to eat the same salt-and-vinegar potato chips he bought after school every day. Third, he didn’t tell his mother about it.
The only person he told was Miles. He and Miles had been in the same class every year since kindergarten. They knew everything about each other. For instance, Peter knew that Miles only pretended to hate the two stepsisters who lived uptown with Miles’s father and stepmother. The truth was that Miles liked them, and that he liked his Monday and Friday nights at his dad’s– he liked how the apartment was full of life, with friends coming and going, and teasing at dinner, and the way they always ate oranges and popcorn while they watched TV together.
And Miles knew that Peter was afraid to tell his mother about his first headache because it had brought him a little closer to knowing what he had already half-known for years: that his mother’s headaches were not headaches at all, but something else entirely. Something she didn’t want to talk about. Something like sadness.
Then Peter had more headaches. He took the stub of a pencil from where he had wedged it into the spiral of his little notebook and made a mark next to the others. He counted to himself, slowly. His ninth. In a month. He replaced the notebook on the table and rolled over so he could look through the skylight next to his bed.

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