Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and an Incredible Journey

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A “page-turner of a survival story.” –School Library Journal

Big things are about to happen at Maple's house. Mama's going to have a baby, which means now there will be four Rittle sisters instead of just three. But when baby Lily is born too early and can't come home from the hospital, Maple knows it's up to her to save her sister. So she and Dawn, armed with a map and some leftover dinner, head off down a river and up a mountain to find the Wise Woman who can grant miracles. ...

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Overview


A “page-turner of a survival story.” –School Library Journal

Big things are about to happen at Maple's house. Mama's going to have a baby, which means now there will be four Rittle sisters instead of just three. But when baby Lily is born too early and can't come home from the hospital, Maple knows it's up to her to save her sister. So she and Dawn, armed with a map and some leftover dinner, head off down a river and up a mountain to find the Wise Woman who can grant miracles. Now it's not only Lily's survival that they have to worry about, but also their own. The dangers that Maple and Dawn encounter on their journey makes them realize a thing or two about miracles-and about each other.

Praise for FLUTTER
 
“Moulton is an author to watch, and her debut novel will appeal to girls Maple's age who prefer action to character realism.” –Booklist
 
“Moulton's charming debut explores the challenges and rewards of sisterhood….[in] a heartfelt tale of familial love, with just a touch of magic.” –Publishers Weekly
 
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the 1970s, Moulton's charming debut explores the challenges and rewards of sisterhood. Nine-year-old Maple is devastated when her third sister, Lily, is born prematurely, with a weak heart. Determined to help, Maple decides to make a 30-mile trek into the Vermont woods to visit Old Lady Hope, the Wise Woman of the Mountains (a folkloric character of local legend), seeking a miraculous cure. When Maple's 11-year-old sister, Dawn, catches her leaving, she insists on coming along. The sisters make a fraught trip downriver and into the woods; their travels on land are no less suspenseful, as they encounter everything from a black bear to poachers who mistake them for animals. Throughout the turbulent journey, Maple remains optimistic and on the lookout for miracles, big and small. The girls' knowledge of the wilderness serves them well, and Moulton doesn't minimize the dangers they face or the consequences of their headstrong decision. While significant suspension of belief is required, readers willing to do so will find a heartfelt tale of familial love, with just a touch of magic. Ages 8–12. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—A moderately successful blending of a tender family story with a hair-raising adventure. Nine-year-old Maple feels unsettled when a monarch butterfly—out of season in chilly October Vermont—lights on the kitchen window; shortly afterwards, her mother goes into premature labor and baby Lily is born, small and weak. When feisty Maple overhears her father saying, "I am praying for a miracle," she believes that if she can only collect water from the fountain of the legendary old woman in the mountain, she'll have her miracle. Maple's first-person voice is authentic as she plots the dangerous journey and argues with her older sister who thinks it's too risky. Determined to save the baby, Maple won't be dissuaded, and eventually the sisters escape their grandmother's watchful eye and embark on an action-packed adventure that includes the hazards of a raging river, an encounter with a black bear, and poachers shooting deer—and almost the sisters. The use of the monarch butterfly, which appears several times during the journey as a sort of guardian spirit (and eventually accompanies them to the hospital), feels a little artificial, and some of the figurative language is awkward: "My throat twists like tree roots that have stood too long together." But the page-turner of a survival story, and the ultimate resolution that love, in this case a family's love for a baby, is the true miracle, will offer a satisfying read.—Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—A moderately successful blending of a tender family story with a hair-raising adventure. Nine-year-old Maple feels unsettled when a monarch butterfly—out of season in chilly October Vermont—lights on the kitchen window; shortly afterwards, her mother goes into premature labor and baby Lily is born, small and weak. When feisty Maple overhears her father saying, "I am praying for a miracle," she believes that if she can only collect water from the fountain of the legendary old woman in the mountain, she'll have her miracle. Maple's first-person voice is authentic as she plots the dangerous journey and argues with her older sister who thinks it's too risky. Determined to save the baby, Maple won't be dissuaded, and eventually the sisters escape their grandmother's watchful eye and embark on an action-packed adventure that includes the hazards of a raging river, an encounter with a black bear, and poachers shooting deer—and almost the sisters. The use of the monarch butterfly, which appears several times during the journey as a sort of guardian spirit (and eventually accompanies them to the hospital), feels a little artificial, and some of the figurative language is awkward: "My throat twists like tree roots that have stood too long together." But the page-turner of a survival story, and the ultimate resolution that love, in this case a family's love for a baby, is the true miracle, will offer a satisfying read.—Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
Kirkus Reviews

Almost relentless peril besets two resourceful girls who seek a miracle cure for their ailing newborn sister in Vermont's mountains.

Maple, 9 1/2, and her older sister Dawn set out in search of the "Wise Woman of the Mountain," a folkloric formation in the Green Mountains, and "her" curative waters. What ensues is nonstop danger, making for fast reading. This doesn't add up to necessarily believable reading, however, as the sisters' adventures, which include encounters with a bear, rapids and poachers, would daunt adults with wilderness experience. While readers will turn pages to discover how all this is resolved and will sympathize with the girls' motives for the trek, they'll likely not buy that youngsters of these ages would believe in a magical presence and potion, and the sheer number of dangers strains credulity. Disappointing is the butterfly metaphor: Maple continually notices a monarch that acts as an encouraging totem and spirit guide at various dramatic stages throughout the novel. In the end, this turns out to be an unnecessary motif, because the girls ultimately learn that love and pulling together are really what effect miracles. Maple's first-person/present-tense, sometimes repetitive narration, which places readers in every hazardous moment, sometimes gets bogged down with inconsistent use of contractions.

A generally realistic portrait of sisterly conflict, and undemanding readers will enjoy the fast-paced action.(Adventure. 9-12)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399255151
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/12/2011
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.34 (w) x 5.86 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author


Erin E. Moulton has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and dog. www.erinemoulton.com @erinemoulton
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It all starts at home. On the mountain. Three miles up a rutted dirt road, out past Mr. Benny’s apple orchard and over the hill from Nanny Ann’s farm stand. It’s fall now, my favorite season. And in just a few days, we are going to be having my favorite holiday: Halloween. Yep, out here on Canton Creek Turnpike, it’s time for candy collecting and pumpkin carving.

Papa’s prepping my pumpkin, and I am looking out the window. The sun has almost set, leaving the world soaked in streaks of orange and heavy purple shadows. It’s the best time of day, with everything turning gold. The swing set, the river, and the already fallen leaves melt together in the dusk. Our ox, Millament, is walking lazily toward the barn. Going to get warm, I suppose. I bet he wishes he was in here, and I sorta do too. The fire is crackling in the woodstove and the house is alive with noises: Mama humming in the kitchen, sisters fussing around the table, and Papa slicing away at the top of that pumpkin.

I’m about to come away from the window and get started, but then a little glimmer of brown flits in and out of the shadows and for a minute it looks like a leaf tumbling in the wind, out of control, but then it lands just below the window and I can see it’s a genuine monarch butterfly. I put my hands up to the glass because that monarch is crazy to be out there this time of year. She wouldn’t have the proper amount of meat on her bones to survive. I’m breathing quick and thinking maybe I had better go and get it to come inside, but I fog up the window with my breath and when the fog disappears, the monarch’s gone. I hope it’s headed south and not trying to prove it can make it through the winter.

“There you are, kiddo. Get started,” Papa says.

I turn toward him. He wipes his hands off on a kitchen towel.

I go over to the table and pull the top off the pumpkin. I put it down next to me. I am about to dip my hand into the mushy insides when Beetle, my little sister, comes running around the corner of the counter. She holds a small gourd to her belly, then she teeters and totters to the edge of the table and throws it on the floor. It thuds but doesn’t crack. She squeals with glee and picks it up again. This time, she heads straight for our mutt, Curious, who snoozes by the woodstove. Not for long, though. A second later, Beetle drops the gourd right next to Curious and he lifts his head and stares at her with a what-do-you-think-you-are-doing look. Curious and I are genuine friends, so we have good eye communication, and I can tell he wants this business to stop right now so he can relax.

“Come on, Beetle, don’t bug Curio,” I say. She picks the gourd up and carries it to me. She’ll probably start drooling on my leg or something, ’cause that is what babies do. They don’t have control of all their body yet. She hangs on to my leg, and I pat her on the head and look across the table.

Dawn, my older sister, sets down her knife. She’s all done; her pumpkin has been gutted and carved. It stares at me meanly.

“Don’t copy mine, Maple,” she says.

Like I would want to copy hers anyway. I am going to make a real masterpiece. Dawn wipes her hands and opens her book. It’s a journal, and Dawn writes all her thoughts in it. I’ve read almost all of them. There is a little spot behind the bottom drawer in her desk. 

She puts it back there where she thinks no one can find it. But I know it’s there, and sometimes candies are there too, which I like just as well. I haven’t read any of it this whole week, so I peer with eyelids almost shut at her book. That way she doesn’t know I’m looking.

Trevor Collins is the worst kid in my class. Just because your dad is the park ranger doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about the woods. We went outside yesterday and he—Dawn slams her forearm across the entry just as I start getting involved.

“Quit looking at my paper and carve your pumpkin, Maple,” she says.

I sit back in my chair and ignore her glare. I think about carving the best pumpkin in town. Two days before Halloween, the Bee’s Nest, our general store, empties out its parking lot of all the cars and sets up big pumpkin stands. Everyone in town brings a pumpkin. The whole place seems to glow orange, and some of the pumpkins are real amazing. Last year, there was one with the town center on it. I figure I will try something like that. I dig my hand into the pumpkin’s belly and start loosening the seeds. You have to really pull to get them all out, and you have to dig around with the top of a mason jar to clean it proper.

Papa sits at the end of the table and puts his glasses on his nose. He flips through a worn-out field guide called Birds of the Northeast. He looks up and says, “And the Latin name of the cardinal is—”

I plop some seeds into a bowl of water in the middle of the kitchen table and Dawn and I say, “Cardinalis cardinalis.” Of course, that one’s a cinch. They aren’t all that easy, but I’ve memorized a bunch of them so far. Papa makes us learn a new one every Sunday. Other nights of the week we review the ones we already know.

I dig my hand in again and chuck some pumpkin seeds into the bowl. This time, a little bit splashes out accidentally and lands right on Dawn’s page.

“Maple!” Dawn’s face gets red, and she jumps up and starts dabbing at it with some newspaper.

“Jeez Louise, I didn’t mean—” I start to say, but she picks up her journal and walks to the other end of the table, near Papa. He doesn’t look up. He just keeps flipping the pages of his book. He’s pretty involved.

“Mama, did you see what Maple did?” Dawn turns and holds her book up to the light.

“It’ll dry, Dawn. You know it was an accident,” Mama says, and I smile inwardly knowing Mama’s on my side. I look over at her where she stands in the kitchen, her apron dusted in flour. She is making something that smells real good. I think it’s going to be sticky and sweet and covered in frosting that I can lick off the tips of my fingers. She slaps some dough on the counter and looks at me.
“Do you want to come and help me work the dough?” she asks.

I toss some more pumpkin seeds into the bowl and wipe my hands off on my shirt. Mama grimaces. I come around the counter and she has already got a stool out for me to stand on. I step up onto it in front of her. Her arms come around me and I can feel her big belly and the new baby kicking inside. Mama says babies grow the best when they know that there are good things waiting on the outside for them, so we have to be supportive of it and talk to it a lot. I rub it and feel it under Mama’s skin.

“Time to make the dough, baby,” I say. Then I spin around to help Mama.

“Just like this,” Mama says, and she pushes her palm into the dough. Then she lets me have a try. The flour is soft on my hands, but soon the dough gets stickier and we have to add more. Mama sprinkles the flour down and sings in my ear.

From the sky she fell
Softly in the trees.
If you gather round I’ll tell
Of Old Lady Hope, you’ll see.
Old Lady Hope will soothe,
Wise Woman of the Mountains.
When wind and rain and sleet do swell
Collect water from her fountain.
Pure waters from the mountain.

Mama’s been teaching me this song one verse at a time and I am to the point where I know nearly the whole thing. I thump the dough with my palms and pitch in my voice too. I can feel the singing from the tips of my toes to the tips of my fingers.

Seek her out in times of plight
When you don’t know where to start.
She is where the answer lies
Follow with your heart.

“Mayel,” Beetle says. I didn’t even know she had made it all the way over here until I feel the stem of the gourd jab right into my foot.

“Beetle, don’t do that,” I tell her and kick at her a little bit, but she looks up at me from her spot on the floor and starts giggling like something is hilarious.

I feel Mama laugh and the baby pats my back, but I keep on going, pressing my fingers into that nice soft dough.

Full of water, wind and sun,
Hold your head up high.
Deep within the mountain’s song
You will hear her sigh.

Love and love and round we go,
Clasp your hands and sing.
Round and round and round we go
To form the healing ring—

“How’s the rest go, Mama?” I say. Mama chimes in with her sugar sweet voice:

Water, sun, moon, and rain
Will do their part to heal.
Still greater powers come to call
When love brings strength, concealed . . .
Love and love, the purest love
He—

“Agh.” Dawn slams her book shut. “It’s so loud in here. I am going to go light my pumpkin.”

I hit the dough some more as Dawn gets her fleece jacket out of the closet. She grabs gloves and picks up her jack-o’-lantern.

“Can I have the lighter, Mama?” she asks as she stands at the door. And I hope Mama says she cannot have the lighter, but Mama looks over at Papa. He gets up out of his chair.

“I’ll come out with you, Dawn. Hang on.” Papa grabs Beetle away from my feet and puts a little jacket on her, and then they hurry out onto the porch.

“Mama, can I—” But before I even finish, Mama is wiping my hands off with a washcloth.

“You go ahead, little one,” she says.

 

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