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by Patricia Reilly Giff

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Elizabeth is drawn into a dramatic story from the American Revolution when she discovers a portrait of her ancestor, a girl called Zee, who has a striking resemblance to Elizabeth. The girls' lives intertwine and Elizabeth's present-day story alternates with Zee's. As Elizabeth learns about Zee, and walks where Zee once walked and battles raged, the past becomes as


Elizabeth is drawn into a dramatic story from the American Revolution when she discovers a portrait of her ancestor, a girl called Zee, who has a striking resemblance to Elizabeth. The girls' lives intertwine and Elizabeth's present-day story alternates with Zee's. As Elizabeth learns about Zee, and walks where Zee once walked and battles raged, the past becomes as vivid and real as the present.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This novel by two-time Newbery Honor author Giff gracefully bridges two eras and two insightful perspectives. Elizabeth is a contemporary girl who goes to stay with her late mother's sister, Libby, while her father is away. There, she is captivated by a drawing of a young woman who looks remarkably like her: Zee, an ancestor whose patriot father died fighting in the American Revolution and whose mother was killed when their cabin was ambushed. Through thoughtfully crafted narratives that alternate between each heroine--Elizabeth's story is told in the third-person present tense, Zee's interior monologue is written in the past tense--Giff draws parallels between the two. Both are tenacious yet self-deprecating, have lost family, and are uprooted and searching for a sense of belonging. A roughly drawn map on the back of Zee's portrait and the scattered information Libby and a cousin know about their ancestors help Elizabeth assemble the pieces of Zee's life and become the present-day teller of her story. As she brings these characters and history alive, Giff again demonstrates her own gift for storytelling. Ages 8–14. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Nancy Baumann
Keeping ancestors alive through family stories, horrors of war, and feeling useful are several themes found in this uniquely told story. Elizabeth is furious at being forced to move in with Aunt Libby, her mother's sister, while her father travels to Australia to sell his woodcarvings. After losing her mother when she was a few months old, Elizabeth and Pop have not remained in touch with her mother's family. This makes it worse for Elizabeth; she does not even know Aunt Libby. Now she will have to spend months with her, attend a new school and leave behind her gymnastics and chorus. Elizabeth barely says goodbye to Pop and busies herself exploring Aunt Libby's small house. As she gets ready for bed, Elizabeth notices a portrait of a young girl. The girl's name is Zee and bears a striking resemblance to her and is a relative who lived during the Revolutionary War. Aunt Libby relates as much as she knows about Zee to Elizabeth who finds Zee's life very similar to her own. They look alike; they are both guilty of acting without thinking, and both have lost their mothers. Readers discover Zee's life through alternating chapters with Elizabeth's quest to learn more about the girl who could be her twin. Aunt Libby relates as much as she knows about Zee but admits she has not been good at keeping in touch with family either. To learn more about Zee, Aunt Libby and Elizabeth visit Cousin Harry who gives answers about Zee's life. Historical fiction alternating with contemporary life provides readers a view into the lives of Zee and Elizabeth. The author creates strong female characters who are intelligent, determined, and risk-takers but are not perfect. Reviewer: Nancy Baumann
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Giff juxtaposes two stories to highlight a little-known piece of Revolutionary War history. Present-day Elizabeth has been sent to stay with her deceased mother's sister while her father travels to Australia. Resistant at first, she gradually becomes comfortable with her Aunt Libby and is fascinated by a drawing of an ancestor, a girl who lived through the War for Independence. Zee narrates her dramatic story: living on a farm in upstate New York, her Patriot family is pitted against Loyalist neighbors. When her father and brother leave for battle, her house is attacked and burned and her mother is killed. Handicapped by hands burned in the fire, she sets off to find her father and brother and is caught up in what has come to be known as the Battle of Oriskany. While Elizabeth knows nothing of Zee's story, she is helped by her reclusive Uncle Harry, a history buff, to piece together events by visiting the site of the battle and of Zee's home. Another discovery is made in an antiques shop where Harry has found other drawings, presumably of Zee, by the same artist who did Libby's drawing. Through this experience, Elizabeth acknowledges her own storytelling ability, an implied connection between the two girls. Zee's story is compelling, and, by embedding many historical details, including the role of the Iroquois in the conflict, into the vehicle of Elizabeth's trip with her uncle, the novel barely escapes didacticism. The fast-paced narrative, toggling back and forth between the 18th and 21st centuries, will keep readers interested.—Marie Orlando, North Shore Public Library, Shoreham, NY
Kirkus Reviews
When her artist father is invited to Australia, Elizabeth must stay with an aunt she barely knows. There she comes to learn more about her family, which traces its history back to the Revolutionary War in upstate New York, and—even more important—Eliza, nicknamed Zee, an ancestor whose framed drawing graces her aunt's wall and whom Elizabeth uncannily resembles. The novel is narrated in alternate chapters as Elizabeth and Zee, presumably young teens, tell their stories in the 21st and 18th centuries, respectively. Readers will be intrigued by their similarities—klutzy and forgetful, yet strong-willed and resourceful. The more compelling drama is Zee's, whose family is caught up in the conflict of colonists torn between loyalties to crown or American patriotism. History is truly in the small details, and Zee's story, narrated in first person, past tense, is fascinating and adventurous. Elizabeth's voice is an odd choice, however. Her narration, in third person, present tense, is coolly distancing. Still, this is a lovely story about love and loss, a little-known aspect of Revolutionary history and the way the past informs the present, and the ending is gratifying. (author's note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.50(d)
HL610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

PATRICIA REILLY GIFF is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books, the Friends and Amigos books, and the Polka Dot Private Eye books. Several of her novels for older readers have been chosen as ALA-ALSC Notable Books and ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. They include The Gift of the Pirate Queen; All the Way Home; Water Street; Nory Ryan's Song, a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Honor Book for Fiction; and the Newbery Honor Books Lily's Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods. Lily's Crossing was also chosen as a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book. Her most recent books are Number One Kid, Big Whopper, Flying Feet, Eleven, and Wild Girl.

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Storyteller 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I very much injoyed reading this book. All of Patricia Reilly Giff's books that I have read were AMAZING and very well thought out. This one I think is my favorite because it sort of tells a story from the past while still telling the story of how Elizabeth finds out about her grandmother (who is said to be much like her). The story seemed to get better and better as i kept reading but it was never boring. I deffinetely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
When Elizabeth's father tells her he will be traveling to Australia to sell his wood carvings, she thinks it means she'll have to stay with Mrs. Eldridge and endure her overweight bulldog and his bad breath. She's in for a surprise. Father says Elizabeth will be staying with her Aunt Libby, her mother's sister. Staying with Libby means living with someone she doesn't even know and going to a new school where she doesn't have any friends. All Father says is it is time Elizabeth learned about her mother's side of the family. Libby makes Elizabeth feel as welcome as possible. The house is awfully quiet and her aunt's cooking is horrible, but when Libby shows Elizabeth to the room she'll be using while she visits, everything feels a bit better. The room belonged to Elizabeth's mother when she was a girl. There's a handmade quilt on the bed and a cozy chair by the window perfect for snuggling up in with a good book. It doesn't take long for Elizabeth to discover the faded sketch of a young girl hanging in the hall. It is amazing how much the girl resembles her. Libby tells Elizabeth that the girl's name was Eliza "Zee," and she lived during the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth is filled with questions about this mysterious girl from the past, and what follows is a fascinating journey into her family history. Author Patricia Reilly Giff tells the stories of modern-day Elizabeth and 18th-century Zee through alternating chapters. Elizabeth learns not only about the mother she lost years ago, but also about her family's place in history. Readers also hear Zee's story as she fights for survival during a time of war that separated families and tore apart lives. Giff's gift for writing historical fiction is put to excellent use in STORYTELLER as she bridges from past to present to connect the story of two young girls.
Anonymous 18 days ago
I read it it sounds like its a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very awesome and can truelly touch your heart by all the characters in this book zee can really touch your heart because of all the dufficultness that she has to face when her father dies in the revolutionary war and her mother dies to a group of bad shadowy figures that she doesnt tell who they are any way i would totally recomend this book to the readers who love history and to the readers that love heart warming storys and very ultimately people that love hearing the best books ever that will also set you wondering will elizabeth still go back to harrys to see more places where zee could have stepped and probably been to and stayed there and will there be another book written to see what happened to zee ?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Especially loved it when you would switch from one girl to the other, leaving me in suspense. I love suspense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit rushed but then again it is a proluge...curious to see what happens next
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keep going! Its great! Also, plz read my story,boy of fire, girl of ice, at thefern (no typo ) res2. PPPLLLZZZ comment at fire and ice res12.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A small ray of light shone through my windows. Ughh. I thouhh, not wanting to get up. Eowyn! I heard my mother call. I tossed the covers off me. Yes!? I called down. Me and your father are heading out. Well be back tonight. She said. Ok! I called back. I heard the door shut after a few minutes. I slipped back under my covers and fell back asleep. When i woke up it was darker. I walked downstairs and saw my parents sitting in deep conversation. My dad saw me first. Hello Wynny! He says, using my nickname. My mom just hands me a plate. Serve yourself. She gestures to the kitchen. I grinned and pulled out the salad, fruit, and chicken. When i had gotten what i wanted, including a slice of pie, and had eaten it, a rejoined my parents. As i sat there was a loud banging then the sound of glass shattering. My parents looked at each other feafully then at me. Wynny, hide! My dad yelled. The next minutes were a blur. The man with the scar, my dad, my mom, blood. Then silence. Broken by the soft sh of a man. I was crying. Warm kind arms picked me up and carried me away. Away from my dead parents. Away from the blood. The blood. I panicked and fell from the mans arms. Thats when the world went black. But thats not the end, its only a memory, for you see, this is only the beginning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the greatest books ever made. I read it for wirc and loved it.
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The book looks good. The sample just drew me in. Get it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Arent that great they r just little scribnles on paper this book looks boring i donwannat read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to read this book so i need some shorter feedback please!!!!