The Map That Breathedby Melanie Gideon
A mysterious map of another world plunges two friends into the adventure of a lifetime
"Suddenly the map darkened as if someone had dimmed the light.
'Did you see that?' whispered Billy.
A fetid wind came barreling out of the window and sand whipped around in the hole. The two of them watched in astonishment as the map trembled and/i>/i>
A mysterious map of another world plunges two friends into the adventure of a lifetime
"Suddenly the map darkened as if someone had dimmed the light.
'Did you see that?' whispered Billy.
A fetid wind came barreling out of the window and sand whipped around in the hole. The two of them watched in astonishment as the map trembled and inhaled.
'It's breathing,' gasped Nora. 'The map is breathing!'"
Nora Sweetkale has a strong feeling that her life is about to change. It starts when she receives a mysterious blank book in the mail. Then she meets Billy, who can make windows that look into other worlds. Through one of these windows they glimpse the lovely island of Sanasaera, where the colorful cats are as big as ponies and the cheerful people love nothing better than a good ear-pulling to clear their heads. Yet in this beautiful place lurks something terrible.
When Nora disappears into this other world, Billy is left to face the evil that has escaped into their own. But he can't do it alone. He must find a way to get Nora back, and quickly, or it may be too late.
"A fast-paced fantasy. . . . [R]eaders will be captivated by this book and will long for a sequel." School Library Journal
"[T]he pages come alive with vivid descriptions. . . .Gideon's first novel for young adults should attract readers who enjoy both the fantasy and the mystery genres." VOYA
"Top 10 Pick" selectionGirls' Life
- Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 378 KB
- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Map That Breathed
Part OneChapter OneNora Sweetkale had always been a well-behaved girl. She made her bed every morning. She was pleasant to grown-ups. She rarely lied, and if she did, it was in order to spare somebody's feelings. She brought home As and Bs on her report card, and she was comfortably smart, which meant she had to study for her tests, but not too hard. She'd never caused her mother much worry. But all that changed when she got the blue book in the mail."Something's come for you," her mother said one afternoon, handing Nora a small brown parcel. Nora gave a little shriek of delight; she never got packages."There's no return address," her mother remarked. "Were you expecting something?"Nora turned the package over in her hands and shook her head.Her mother sighed, concern furrowing her brow. Pauline Sweetkale worked for Social Services; it was her job to be suspicious. "Well, you'd better open it and see what it is."Nora nodded. She turned to leave the kitchen."Open it here," said her mother.Nora bit her lip. For some reason she wanted privacy; she wasn't sure why. She sat down at the table and slowly unwrapped the parcel. She had the strangest sense that she was unwrapping something terribly important, something that would change her life. She unwound the Bubble Wrap carefully and gasped, for nestled in the plastic was a bird, its feathers turquoise and aquamarine, wings folded up tight against its body. And it was alive! She could see its breast heaving, its tiny heart pounding; it was panting for air. Nora clapped her hand to her mouth at the wonder of it. She looked up to gauge her mother's reaction, but her mother was digging around in the fridge, intent upon finding something; Nora had her privacy after all.The bird's not from here, Nora thought. It's not from this world. She had never entertained such an idea before. Up until that moment she had been a practical girl who believed only in what she could see. But this bird ... it seemed to suggest other possibilities.The bird searched Nora's face with a surprisingly human awareness, its eyes glittering, full of grief. Nora wanted to comfort it. She reached out to touch it, but this was the wrong thing to do, for as soon as she placed her finger on its tiny head, the bird vanished and in its place was a book, its cover and pages the exact hues of the bird's feathers."So what is it?" her mother asked, turning around, a package of celery in her hands. She swooped over to pick the book up."No!" Nora shouted and clutched the book to her chest."Why, Nora! Whatever's wrong with you?""It's mine, it was sent to me. I should be allowed to look at it first," the girl protested. She felt as if she would burst into tears.Her mother looked at her, eyebrows raised in surprise. Her mouth opened as if to say something, then closed as she decided that the book was harmless and she needn't be worried."You're right. It is yours. Off with you, then." Her mother started making the salad for supper.
Nora went up to her bedroom. The book stayed a book, but its animal presence remained, and instinctively she knew she must hold it close to her body.She gently opened it, crooning to it softly. When she ruffled through the pages (which were empty, it was a blank book) there was the unmistakable sound of wings beating in the air, and Nora knew she hadn't imagined what she'd seen. The book was alive, if barely so, and it needed her to survive.The first days with the book were wonderful. It was as if Nora had a newborn baby, dependent on her for everything. It was lovely to feel so wanted and needed. She took the book everywhere. She pressed it close to her chest, believing this was the right thing to do. But as the weeks passed, its dependence on her gradually developed into something darker, more insistent, and Nora's moods grew darker as well, until one day she knew the truth: She was a prisoner of the book.
It was suppertime. Nora glanced at the book, which she had placed on the dining-room table. She knew all too well the consequences for letting it out of her sight. Agony.At first she had only experienced a small tug when she forgot it or left it behind, a kind of breathlessness that was merely uncomfortable. But that tug very quickly turned into something much bigger, an acute pain, as though inside her body her bones were being shattered and the splinters were erupting through her skin. Despite the pain, Nora still felt liberated at the sight of the book. She hadn't forgotten the wonder and mystery of it; how it had first appeared to her as a bird, its true form. She believed the book was connected to her future and if she could just bear the pain, if she could just be awfully brave, she would realize her destiny. The book was merely testing her allegiance.Nora set the table loudly, slamming the silverware down. She was surprised by her dreadful behavior but even more horrified at her inability to control her temper; it descended upon her like some wild animal, pinning her down at whim. This had been another side effect of assuming responsibility for the book, a less painful but more troublesome one. Sometimes she felt like her old lighthearted girl-self, wanting nothing more than to do errands with her mother and play I Spy with her three-year-old brother, David. Other times she felt so grim and heavy, so unlike her family, that she couldn't breathe.Ms. Sweetkale took the fish sticks out of the oven and sighed. The familiar look of distaste was on Nora's face, the one that signaled the start of her violent moods. Puberty had hit Nora like a sudden storm, and her mother was trying to get used to thechanges. She missed her old daughter, the one who confided in her, who had never had a sullen moment in her life. Nora had always wondered about the unfairness of losing both her mother and father in an airplane crash shortly after she was born, but now she was beginning to question her adoptive mother's shortcomings."Not again, Nora," her mother warned, having no intentions of being held prisoner by her daughter's moods.Nora didn't answer. She poured herself a glass of milk and stared, her gaze a direct challenge."You want to go to Moonstone Beach, we'll go to Moonstone Beach," her mother relented, finally succumbing to Nora's request that she be taken there tomorrow. It was thirty miles from Sand Hill Cove, the beach they usually frequented. She slid a pat of butter onto the broccoli. "I just hope the waves aren't too much for David. It'll be no fun for him if they are."Nora said nothing. Her mother looked up. "And Nora, we are not going to have the father conversation again, so don't even think about starting it.""Why not?""Because it's ridiculous. You do not just ask for a father.""But couldn't you just work on it a little? You could dress up a bit more, wear a little makeup, act a little interested," said Nora meanly, shocked at what was coming out of her mouth.She couldn't believe she was saying this stuff out loud. It was, however, the truth. Nora had become embarrassed about her mother. Her mother was fifty-two, older than all of Nora's friends' mothers. She was dowdy. A bit overweight. She hadstopped wearing lipstick years ago. But what Nora had become most dissatisfied with was being in a single-parent family. She wanted a father. She wanted their family to be four, not three."Young lady!" shouted her mother. "You are out of line. I'm going to tell you this just once more, and that's the end of it, forever. You, David, and I are a family. You don't need a father to complete you or to make us a family. You and I became a family the day I adopted you, and David became a member of our family the day we adopted him. You can't sit around waiting for a father to appear. Maybe someday you will get a father. Maybe you won't. And maybe you'll have to choose one yourself. Now, get your brother and let's eat. I don't want to hear another word about this."
That night after dinner Nora decided to go straight to bed."Should I be worried about you?" Her mother stood at the bottom of the stairs, a dish towel in her hands. "Is there something you want to tell me?" she asked softly. She had not given up hope that Nora would confide in her.David ran by with a roll of paper towels."I'm fine, Mom, I'm just tired," Nora said, feeling horrible about the way she had been acting. "And I'm sorry. I won't ask about a father anymore." She looked down at her hands. "I know I've been kind of a jerk."Her mother studied her for a moment. "I know you're sorry. Go take a bath. You've had a long day."Nora nodded wearily. Her mother's kindness made her want to cry. She had never felt farther away from her, yet she felt incapable of closing the distance she had put between them.After her bath Nora climbed into bed and held the book in her hands. She leafed through it. Not a word, not a sentence was written upon the pages; still it felt heavy and full of import. The book was very old, its paper wrinkly and parchmentlike, and it had a strange sort of anchor embossed on the cover. The binding was blue leather, discolored in many places where the oils from somebody's fingers had left their mark. Nora felt as if she and the book were feeding each other, bringing each other to life. This was her secret, but it was also her burden. She shut off the light and closed her eyes.
At eight o'clock on Saturday morning, Moonstone Beach was deserted. The early morning fog slowly dissipated, leaving behind a weak sun and patches of watery blue sky. It was late May in Waitsfield, but it was still cool in the mornings. Nora sat on a beach chair bundled up in a sweatshirt. Her mother and David were wandering up and down the shore, searching for sand dollars; it was too cold to swim.Nora glanced down at the blue book, which lay open on her lap. Her throat swelled with emotion. She felt completely alone. Oh, how she wished she were young again, when life was made good by something as simple as an afternoon on the beach with her mother, the promise of ice cream, a beloved television show after a warm bath. Nora looked up from the book, its blank pages still eluding her, and saw a boy and a woman. They hadn't been there a minute ago; the fog must have shrouded them. They seemed to have just popped into the world.Nora stared. In the burnished light the sight of them was jolting; their hair was the color of beets. The woman's hair hungdown to her waist. Nora could see only the top of the boy's head, for he was sitting in a hole in the sand.She tucked the book into her knapsack, slung it over her shoulder, and walked toward their blankets. She gazed back and forth from the Fluffernutter sandwiches the woman was unpacking to the boy. He had dug such a large hole that all Nora could see of him were his eyes and a slice of his crimson head.The woman held out half a sandwich. A turquoise scarf kept her thick, curly hair back from her face. Her face was freckled, her green eyes bright; she was beautiful. Nora found herself tongue-tied. She imagined what it would be like to have such a glamorous mother."I'm Meg," the woman said. "And this is Billy." She pointed down into the hole in the sand. "Hungry?" she asked.Nora said no, shyly."Well, then, how old are you?""Twelve," Nora said, shifting her weight nervously from one foot to the other."You've got a shining brow," Meg said softly, reaching forward to push the hair from Nora's forehead. "Know what that means?"Nora shook her head."It means you're special. Meant for great things, but you know that, don't you? That's not news to you, eh?" She had a strange sort of accent.For a moment Nora was not sure if Meg had even spoken, or if she had just wished the woman would say these things to her and so imagined it. Meg continued to smile at her, and Nora knew she had heard correctly. She was flooded with confidence and hunger. She wanted more of this, of somebody listening to her so intently,awaiting her next words. She wanted to bask in this woman's presence.Meg Nolan had that effect on nearly everyone she came into contact with, so Nora's response to her was not unusual. What was unusual was her response to Nora, although she wouldn't speak of that to Nora, not yet.Meg and her husband, Satchel, grew the tastiest, most succulent produce in all of Waitsfield. Their farm stand on Curtis Corner Road was very popular. All the children who frequented Nolan Farms with their parents fell under Meg's spell. She slipped them licorice whips, homemade potato chips, cups of apple cider.The mothers of these besotted children did not always share the same sentiments about Meg, which was not surprising. They were envious. There were actually some people in Waitsfield who wished ill on Meg Nolan and her family, and this was not surprising either. It was often this way with people who were deemed too lucky or too content, people who appeared to have more than their fair share of happiness or bumper crops."Go on now, he's waiting for you," Meg said."Who's waiting?""Billy."Nora looked startled. "But how did he know I'd be here?""He didn't. He's waiting all the same," said Meg.Nora walked toward the hole. "Hey," she called down."Hey," Billy said back.Nora looked at Meg as if for permission to continue."Go ahead. There's nothing to be afraid of. Billy's a bit shier than most. He keeps to himself. He's eleven, so you're older thanhe is. Don't forget that. You must be gentle. You must guide him," said Meg. "Or maybe he'll guide you." She laughed.Meg spoke to Nora as if she were an adult. As if she was embarking upon a great journey. As if everything was fraught with significance. This was the way Nora wanted to live. She climbed into the hole with Billy."Or perhaps you'll guide each other," Meg Nolan whispered to herself.Billy nodded at Nora solemnly and moved over to make room for her. His eyes were pale green, lighter than his mother's, the color of the inside of a lime. He did not look like he needed Nora to be gentle with him. He looked as though he could take care of himself perfectly well, and this was true, up to a point. Billy Nolan was very smart and used his intellect in place of the muscles he lacked, for he was a small, skinny boy, often beat up and always the last to be chosen for a team (unless it was the math team). He scrutinized Nora, looking deeply into her eyes, appeared to make some sort of internal decision, and turned away to face the wall of sand."Do we know each other?" Nora asked. She felt confused."Nope," Billy said.Nora's heart fluttered as she sat alongside Billy. Being next to him electrified her. She had no idea why. Perhaps because he was Meg's son. She stole looks at him and saw he was nervous too. His bangs were damp with sweat.Billy barely looked like his mother at all except for the color of his hair. He was puny, much shorter than Nora, all knees and elbows and pale skin--bluish, like skim milk. He had dark circles under his eyes, and Nora could see he bit his nails. Still, there wassomething about him she immediately admired, a stillness, an inherent trustworthiness. This was not a boy who would blab."What are you doing?" Nora asked."I'm making a window," said Billy, smoothing the sand in front of him with the palms of his hands."What's a window?""This."Billy pulled his hands back, and the sand changed from a toast color to a pale blue, and then suddenly it became transparent and they were looking into a cavern of a room that was empty except for a long table and ten high-backed chairs. Nora stared at Billy in disbelief."Has this happened to you before?" she whispered."Yes," he said, a hint of impatience in his voice."What is this?" she asked."Where is this?" Billy corrected her. "Greenwater. The archipelago of Sanasarea. My best guess is that it's a meeting room of sorts, but I don't know for sure.""And where's Sanasarea?" asked Nora, getting a funny feeling in her stomach, hoping he'd say someplace like Antarctica but knowing he wouldn't. The scene they were looking at struck her as beyond foreign--it was of a different time, a different place, like her blue book.Billy looked at her with disappointment, his large eyes unblinking."You must take more chances," he said. "You must learn to trust your instincts. Yes, it's another world." He sighed, as if she were a child who had asked him the same question over and over again.Billy had always found it easy to feel compassion for people. He would imagine being this person or that and so have a good idea of what they were thinking and feeling. Recently this sensitivity had intensified, and occasionally Billy was able to hear what people were thinking. With Nora it was as though he were listening to one side of a phone conversation. He had to make a conscious effort to stop eavesdropping; otherwise her thoughts assaulted him. Before she had even come over to their blanket, he had known about her sadness, about the strange book she carried in her knapsack. He was well aware that she was trafficking with the unknown, the unexplainable, like he was. That was how he knew he could trust her.Nora bristled at Billy's impatience and was about to tell him she didn't appreciate being treated like a dummy when he said, "Look, over the fireplace, it's a painting." The window blurred and refocused like a camera lens, zooming in on the painting."It hears us," she said, clutching Billy's arm in fear. "It thinks we want to see the painting.""You need to be careful what you say around windows," he said, gently detaching her hand from his arm. He was not used to being touched by kids his own age. Nora was so flabbergasted about looking into another world that she didn't even notice Billy pulling away from her. He was glad of this; he didn't want to offend her. He knew he sometimes came off as rude, but really it was a matter of inexperience. He had never slung his arm around a buddy, never entwined legs with somebody on the monkey bars.The large rectangular painting was nearly three feet across. Four egg-sized emeralds were embedded in its gold frame. Billy and Nora were filled with a sense of foreboding. It was like thefeeling you got right before the teacher handed back a math test, or in the seconds before a softball descended and everyone cleared, giving the signal that it was your catch."It's a map, not a painting," said Billy as they got closer.The map was of an island called Talfassa. Four ribbons of color wound through the deep green countryside. They were labeled Lolan, Karain, Parth, and Eild."Are they rivers?" asked Nora.Billy shrugged. "Beats me."Closest to the Greenwater Sea was Port City, and in its central square was a large marble building labeled "The Aquisto." There were manicured lawns and lush gardens, terraces and wide sandy beaches. Up in the hills was a forest called Window Woods, and the highest point of the island was labeled "Stag's Head."Suddenly the map darkened as if someone had dimmed the light. Billy and Nora looked up at the sky. There were no clouds; the sky was a brilliant blue."Did you see that?" whispered Billy.A fetid wind came barreling out of the window, and sand whipped around in the hole. The two of them watched in astonishment as the map trembled and inhaled."It's breathing," gasped Nora. "The map is breathing!""More like struggling to breathe," Billy said, and it was true. The map seemed to fight for each ragged shallow breath."Ugh, what is that?" Nora grimaced and pinched her nostrils shut. "Tell me that's seaweed or rotten fish."In the next instant the elaborate and breathtaking map of Talfassa was entirely blotted out, and another image began to surface,swimming toward them at great speed. Although the children were filled with dread, they did not climb out of the hole."Don't," Nora cautioned Billy, sensing he was about to shriek, as a face of colossal proportions bobbed up to the surface of the map. It looked normal in that it had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, but the resemblance to anything human stopped there. Its skin was stretched taut across its face, straining against the bones. Its flesh, if you could call it that, was an unearthly hue, a dull pewter. Its features had the sly look of a giant fox. When it saw the children, its lips peeled back from its teeth in a frenzy. It looked at them hungrily, as if it would gobble them up. Nora peered into its cavernous mouth and saw something spinning around in there. A bird? A dragonfly? Something winged and frantic, struggling for life."It's swallowed something!" cried Nora. She had forgotten her own warning to Billy to remain quiet.Long yellowed fingernails crusted with dried blood gripped the edges of the gold frame as the creature attempted to pull itself out of the map and into the hole the children were sitting in."Billy, time for lunch!"At the sound of Meg's voice the thing slowly sank back into the depths of the map, which froze, as if deeply distressed, and then went perfectly still. The window disappeared.Billy put his finger to his lips. "Not a word," he whispered, and they climbed out of the hole.By that time it was nearly two in the afternoon. Nora's mother and brother had joined Meg almost an hour ago and they had been chatting amiably. Tomato-and-mayonnaise sandwiches were distributed. The bread was a bit soggy, but still it was a huge relief tobe out of the hole and sitting on the blanket all together in the sunlight, eating lunch when lunch should have been all but over."Imagine that," said Meg, admiring Billy and Nora sitting side by side, "you living not even a mile away.""Do you think it would be safe to let them bike on Curtis Corner Road?" asked Nora's mother.Neither Billy nor Nora said more than a few words to each other for the rest of that afternoon. They were exhausted and bewildered. Their arms and legs felt noodly and weak, as though they had just gotten over the flu. They let their mothers arrange to have them meet on Monday, after school.Copyright © 2003 by Melanie Gideon
Meet the Author
Melanie Gideon was born and brought up in Rhode Island and now lives in northern California with her family. The Map That Breathed is her first novel for young readers.
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When I read The Map that Breathed by Melonie Gideon, I thought it was an outstanding book. The way she wrote this fantasy book was amazing. I thought this book was amazing because it always left me wondering what would happen in every paragraph. This book was two stories that eventually led into one, so to find out the next part, you had to keep reading.
This book took place in modern times. There was a small town called Waitsfield and a mystical world called Sanasarea. The most important conflict is that there is a monster called the Provisioner that feeds on the souls of small children. It has been in both worlds and is stealing many children¿s souls. Nora Sweetkale has gotten farther away from her good friend Billy as they mature. Then, the Provisioner steals her memories as she enters another world. On top of all of this, it enters the real worlds and starts taking the souls of eleven children! Now Billy must figure out was has happened to Nora so they can save everyone. The author has a calm and relaxed tone in the beginning, but switches to very serious at some parts. There are many descriptive words that create vivid pictures in your mind.
I would recommend this book to kids of about 5th grade and up. The problems in this story are easy to understand, and there are a lot of things kids can relate to.
Reading The Map that Breathes ushers you into a fantastical world you will never want to leave. Melanie Gideon has created such an artfully woven tale. It is rich with life and celebration, battles of good and evil, and the strong bonds of friendship, love and family. The Map that Breathed will take it's place amongst the classics of young adult fiction and fantasy.