Under the Green Hillby Laura L. Sullivan
Rowan, Meg, Priscilla, and their little brother, James, are off to the English countryside to stay with relatives at the Rookery. The children are looking forward to exploring the ancient mansion and perhaps discovering a hidden secret or two. Little do they know this is a seventh summer. Every seventh summer, a fairy war is fought on the Green Hillto the
Rowan, Meg, Priscilla, and their little brother, James, are off to the English countryside to stay with relatives at the Rookery. The children are looking forward to exploring the ancient mansion and perhaps discovering a hidden secret or two. Little do they know this is a seventh summer. Every seventh summer, a fairy war is fought on the Green Hillto the deathwith a human champion. And Rowan has been chosen as one of the champions. Meg is desperate to save her brother. But the Midsummer War is far more than a battle between mythic creatures: Everything that lives depends on it. How can Meg choose between family and the fate of the very land itself?
Like Edward Eager's Half-Magic, this debut contemporary fantasy pays homage to E. Nesbit, but it goes further, mirroring Nesbit's narrative quirks, syntax and even vocabulary. To escape an epidemic, six American kids—the four Morgan siblings and two classmates—are bundled off to the siblings' elderly relatives in rural England. Arriving just in time for Beltane, they discover that the Seelie and Unseelie courts are housed nearby; the countryside is awash in fairies. Disregarding warnings not to leave the premises, the kids are soon up to their necks in dangerous fairy politics. Rowan is recruited as the Fairy Queen's champion, Meg meets a brownie, Finn stirs up trouble and Dickie meets a learned Wyrm. The often-archaic language sometimes jars—the Morgans call their parents "Mother" and "Father" and use expressions like, "that's the ticket"—and the chatty narrator repeatedly pauses the action to reflect on it or spell out a moral. Happily, Sullivan also channels vivid Nesbit-style storytelling and characters, and while the discursive asides diminish suspense, they're a refreshing departure from breakneck pacing and breathless narration. (Fantasy. 9-14)
“Sullivan draws heavily on her knowledge of Middle English folklore and creates a story rich with memorable characters and evocative language. The ending begs for a sequel in which readers can learn more about the history between the two opposing fairy courts and how the Morgan children fulfill their destinies.” School Library Journal
“With colorful characters, from Jenny Greenteeth to the dragonlike Wyrm, this engaging fantasy will attract readers intrigued by English folklore.” Booklist
“Like Edward Eager's Half-Magic, this debut contemporary fantasy pays homage to E. Nesbit, but it goes further, mirroring Nesbit's narrative quirks, syntax and even vocabulary.” Kirkus Reviews
“Magic, wonder, and danger pervade this tightly plotted, perfectly age-pitched fantasy debut.” BCCB
“Sullivan fashions an unforgettable landscape and suggests that the line between the real and fairy worlds remains highly permeable. She pays tribute to time-honored fairy traditions while also introducing questions of free will, trust and loyalty in a refreshingly original tale.” Shelf Awareness
Read an Excerpt
Under the Green Hill
By Laura L. Sullivan
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)Copyright © 2010 Laura L. Sullivan
All right reserved.
UNDER THE GREEN HILL (Chapter One)
“Oh dear,” said Phyllida Ash as she read the telegram. Even in these days of telephones and e-mail, the only messages that reach the Rookery are hand-delivered by a sly-faced young man who pads down quiet paths from the nearby town of Gladysmere. “They want to come here, ’Sander. On the first of May. Oh, this will never do at all!”
She ran her free hand distractedly through short, thick curls that in some lights were almost lavender. Though she had, even at her great age, a brusque force to her movements, there was something about the way her fingers lingered at the ends of her curls that hinted she’d once been a coquette. Lysander stifled a grunt as he pushed himself up with a stout, gnarled cane and crossed the garden kitchen to put an arm around his wife of sixty years.
“Why now?” she moaned, leaning into him. “Of all the years, of all the times, why does she pick the most dangerous to send her children here?”
Lysander Ash took up the telegram and scanned lines written in the age-old truncated style. Dear Aunt Uncle Ash, stop. “Aunt and uncle, hogwash! Great-aunt and -uncle, maybe….”
“One more ‘great,’ I think.”
“Be that as it may.” He read aloud: “Urgent favor needed, stop. Fever rampant in States, stop. Can you take children for summer, interrogative. Awfully grateful, stop. Arriving May One, stop. Rowan, Meg, Priscilla, James, stop. Do they think we don’t even know their names?”
“Well, we’ve never seen them. We’ve never seen any of them, not since Chlorinda left.”
“Your sister wasn’t able to take on her responsibilities,” Lysander began hotly.
“Now, don’t open old wounds,” his wife said, with a reproach so gentle it was obvious she’d been repeating it for many years. When people have lived together for six decades, and played as children in the years before that, many of their conversations go by rote, and often entire arguments can take place with a brief glance.
“Four generations living across the ocean, and those children so far removed from what’s in their blood. And now they want to traipse across the ocean just in time to get themselves captured or glamoured or torn to shreds!”
“It’s not as bad as all that,” she said, wondering, as she frequently did, whether he became deliberately contrary just to force her into an opposing tack. She’d been dead against the children’s coming the moment she read the telegram, but now, in the face of Lysander’s opposition—it was her family, after all—she was almost reconciled to their arrival. “We can take precautions…. They’ll be all right if we keep them on the grounds. The house and gardens will be enough for them, and there’s nothing that can hurt them there. It will be safer than staying where there’s fever. A lot of children are leaving the States, I’ve heard, or going off to the mountains. I’m ashamed I didn’t think to invite them here. Why, our house could hold a hundred children, with no danger to anyone! What harm could four come to?”
“Four children here, at Midsummer, on a seventh year? Even the villagers hide their children at the teind times.”
“They’ll be fine,” she assured him, squeezing his hand. “Bran will look after them. Oh!” She gave a little gasp. “Someone has to tell Bran.” She looked worried, perhaps even a bit frightened.
Lysander turned away from her abruptly to poke the low fire that burned winter and summer. “Well, it’s not going to be me.” After all, he had to put his foot down somewhere.
UNDER THE GREEN HILL Copyright © 2010 by Laura L. Sullivan
Excerpted from Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan Copyright © 2010 by Laura L. Sullivan. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
LAURA L. SULLIVAN is a former newspaper editor, biologist, social worker, and deputy sheriff who writes because that's the easiest way to do everything in the world. She lives in the woods of Kentucky with her loved ones. Laura's next book, Guardian of the Green Hill, will be available from Henry Holt in October 2011.
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I'm a bit partial to books about kids in unfamiliar old houses who stumble upon magical worlds. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would love Under the Green Hill. I want to be so very grown-up and objective and say that what I found so attractive in this book was its own sense of place in and reverence to the tradition of books about kids in unfamiliar old houses, so on and so forth. Or that I loved the allusions to other fairy/faerie stories that I caught but will probably fly over the heads of young readers. Or that I was excited about a middle grade book featuring a position of power passed down through the maternal line, with almost inconsequential (but loved!) husbands marrying into the family to help produce the all important female heir and spare. Or even that I was enchanted by Sullivan's use of language. I could say all of that, and it would all be true (especially that last one). But what really made me fall in love with Under the Green Hill was the story, pure and simple. I'm a sucker for a good fantasy adventure, and this one is full of that goodness: a beautiful setting that is recognizable but still full of fantastical elements, betrayal, swamp monsters, life and death stakes, war-training, a wise benefactress who one can only hope will make everything okay, an enemy that isn't so evil that anyone really wants to kill him, a sensible sister who tries to be the voice of reason, and a brother hell-bent on grand acts of heroism. Plus an added bonus (that I'm also a sucker for): a selkie! So Finn, Dickie, and even youngest brother James are a bit underdeveloped. That's okay; they each serve their purpose in the story, hindering or helping the rest of the Morgans along. There's also a little ambiguity in the beginning about when this story is set. It feels like it should be set in the past, between World Wars perhaps, what with the incurable fever ravaging America's children and names like Finn, Rowan and Dickie, but Finn despairs about the DVDs and video games he brought with him to England but can't use since the Rookery has no electricity. It's also possible that I projected a former time on a book whose time period should be last week. Regardless, time period ceased to matter once all the children reached the Rookery and the real story started. In case you missed it the first two times I said it, I loved this book and I think you all should read it! More professionally, I think other fantasy adventure readers are sure to enjoy it, and it will be an immediate hit with readers looking for something to read once they've run out of Narnia books. Book source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Really great book. I dont know how people could give it less than three stars
"It's alright. The prey is scarce." Wingfeather whispered to Dawnflame as she added a small mouse in the fresh-kill pile. Daisywing added a carp to it. -D&W