Water Steps

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Kyna likes her friends, her purple hair, and taking photographs. But there's something she definitely doesn't like: the water. Every time she comes near it, she feels the sinister pull of the depths trying to draw her down to a watery grave. Even the calm water in the bathtub reminds her of the torrential storm that took the lives of her sailing family when she was just a baby. But Kyna's adopted parents love nothing more than to swim and splash about in lakes and streams, or even the local pool. When they decide...

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Water Steps

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Kyna likes her friends, her purple hair, and taking photographs. But there's something she definitely doesn't like: the water. Every time she comes near it, she feels the sinister pull of the depths trying to draw her down to a watery grave. Even the calm water in the bathtub reminds her of the torrential storm that took the lives of her sailing family when she was just a baby. But Kyna's adopted parents love nothing more than to swim and splash about in lakes and streams, or even the local pool. When they decide to spend the summer at a beach house on Lake Champlain, Kyna is convinced that they're trying to teach her something about water that she's not ready to learn. Little does she know that the water will reveal far more than she ever could have imagined. Inspired by Champ, the legendary monster living in Lake Champlain, Water Steps finds novelist A. LaFaye at her best, expertly interweaving themes of adolescent fears and fantasies, the frustrations and rewards of family, and a world of mystery and magic under the placid surface of nature.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Realistic fiction takes an unexpected turn into fantasy in LaFaye's (Worth) lyrical exploration of a girl coping with her fear of water. Eleven-year-old Kyna's first memory is of drowning; a boat accident took the lives of her family when she was three. She was rescued by Mem and Pep, a water-loving Irish couple who adopted her. They have worked with her on slowly overcoming her fear by taking "water steps" over the years-the latest step is renting a house on Lake Champlain for the summer. Kyna's passion for photography sustains her as she struggles to make peace with the water that surrounds her. Thanks to the gentle prodding of her adoptive parents and a new friend's interest in seeking out the mythical silkies (shape-shifting seals that come to the aid of people in trouble in the water) that he believes live in the lake, she makes tremendous strides over the summer. The final, magical revelation about Mem and Pep's identity will come as much of a surprise to readers as it does to Kyna. Ages 8-13. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Kyna Moira Monahan is scared to death of water, and with good reason. When she was just three years old, she nearly drowned in a storm that capsized her family's boat at sea; the rest of her family perished that night. She was saved by an Irish couple who had been swimming nearby, so they said, but who had been able to save only her. They ultimately adopted her, took possession of Kyna's family home and raised her as their own. They never talked much about their own past, but instead filled her full of stories about silkies, fairies and leprechauns. Kyna had no memories of her own family that she could bear to embrace because the water fear would overwhelm her. The fear of water and everything associated with it ruled Kyna's life. She couldn't walk near water or go for a swim. Even water touching her skin sent her into a paralyzing anxiety attack. Therapists and her adoptive Mem and Pep tried to help her take small steps—water steps—to become less afraid. Kyna declares she would "rather be chopped up and fed to lions" than go to stay at a cabin on Lake Champlain for the summer, but what choice does she have? Within a few days Kyna befriends Tylo, who swears he has seen a silkie in the lake, and she agrees to help him take pictures even though she doesn't believe in them. As Kyna's realization grows that her fear is separating her from memories of her original family and keeping her from sharing in her adoptive family's love of the water, she decides to take some water steps on her own. But she is not ready to take the big leap needed when Tylo slips on the rocks and falls into the water. Can Kyna overcome her fear in order to save her friend? What else will she learn in theprocess? Although the outcomes are hardly surprising, Kyna's struggle to overcome her fears and the elements of myth will still make this an appealing read. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Eleven-year-old Kyna must go to Lake Champlain with her adoptive parents, Mem and Pep, for summer vacation. But she is terrified of water because she witnessed the drowning of her family when she was a young child. Mem and Pep, who saved her, have helped her take "water steps" over the years to overcome her fear. This summer, they want her to take her final step. At the same time, they have a secret to reveal. Upset at the thought of spending the summer near water, Kyna sets out to make the best of it. She befriends Tylo, a fellow vacationer. He tells her he has seen silkies in the lake and wants to get a photograph of them to prove it to others. Kyna tells him there is no such thing, though Mem and Pep believe in them. As the story progresses, Kyna puts together clues about her parents to figure out their secret, though she doesn't want to believe it. Told from Kyna's point of view, the story ends with a neat resolution, and the engaging writing style flows smoothly and is well paced. The language is almost poetic with its use of sensory detail, alliteration, and precise word choices. A satisfying story of overcoming one's fears and discovering secrets.—Jennifer D. Montgomery, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old Kyna is terrified of all kinds of water; even a barrel of water for apple-bobbing can cause a panic attack. As a young girl, she watched her family perish in the sea and she has never gotten over her fear. Her adoptive Irish parents, full of stories of "silkies" (oddly enough not rendered as "selkies") and leprechauns, love everything about water and hope to get her to take "water steps" to overcome her fear. Against her wishes, they rent a house on Lake Champlain for the summer. It is during this summer when Kyna learns that the Irish tales hold clues to her parents' mysterious history. It's doubtful that child readers will be surprised by Kyna's discoveries, as the narrative telegraphs the ending from the very beginning. How seals and "silkies" are supposed to be living in a freshwater lake that has no history of seals is not explained, nor is any mention made of the Champ, the mythological creature purported to live in Champlain. LaFaye's intentions are noble-overcoming fears is something that middle graders must do-but the execution is predictable and muddled. (Fantasy. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Kyna, 11, has spent most of her life overwhelmed by a fear of water since her parents drowned in a boating accident. When her adoptive parents make arrangements to spend the summer at a lake house, she must deal with her feelings of anger, betrayal, and sheer panic. She pursues her photography, a hobby intended to keep her well away from the lake. Ultimately, it draws her to the water, and to a deeper understanding of her adoptive parents, a secret they harbor, and the sacrifices they've made for her. Alexandria LaFaye delivers an extraordinary reading of her novel (Milkweed, 2009). Her clear, crisp voice lifts her wonderful characters off the page and brings them to life. Middle school students will enjoy this spellbinding tale about breaking free of the things that hold us down. The rich vocabulary makes this an excellent choice to pair with the book for vocabulary enrichment.—Lisa Hubler, Memorial Junior High School, South Euclid, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571316868
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,031,113
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Courtesy of Mother-Daughter Book Club.com

    Ever since she nearly drowned in a storm that took the lives of the rest of her family, Kyna has had a crippling fear of the water. Only three when she was rescued by the couple who became her adoptive parents, Kyna has spent the seven years since then learning to take water steps-small victories that help her get over her anxiety from even simple things like washing her hands.

    Mem and Pep, Kyna's adoptive parents, are patient with her, supporting her efforts and always there to encourage every new water step she takes. But Kyna is dismayed when they book a house by a lake for the summer. Don't they know she's not ready to take that big of a step yet?

    Despite Kyna's determination to stay as far away from the lake as possible while she explores the forest instead, she finds herself longing to overcome her fears once and for all so she can stop the limitations she puts on herself.

    Despite the gloomy-sounding premise, Water Steps by A. LaFaye is delightful to read. Kyna has experienced so much pain and loss, but she's surrounded by love and hopefulness too. Just as Kyna's adoptive parents fill her with stories of magical creatures from their native Ireland-silkies, fairies and leprechauns-her story has a hint of magic as well. You'll find yourself cheering for Kyna with every water step she takes. And you'll love the Irish myths woven into along with a little bit of mystery too.

    Good discussion points for mother-daughter book clubs reading Water Steps include overcoming fears, friendship, acceptance, and courage. Recommended for book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen for TeensReadToo.com

    Kyna hates water. Ever since a boating accident left her orphaned, her fear of water has taken over. She is afraid of walking on the beach. There's no way she could swim. Even the idea of taking a bath is enough to send Kyna into a panic attack.

    So when Kyna's adopted parents announce they've rented a lake house for the summer in hopes that Kyna will take more water steps, tasks to get her closer to the water, she is less than pleased.

    How can she stay in a house surrounded by a body of water? She'd much rather spend time taking photos on dry land.

    Kyna's summer starts to look a little brighter when she befriends Tylo. Tylo claims to have seen silkies in the lake and wants Kyna to help him find the truth with her camera. Kyna isn't thrilled about getting close to the water, but she doesn't want to lose her new friend.

    Can she finally push herself to the biggest water step of all?

    WATER STEPS is more than a story about a girl trying to overcome her fear. There are fairy tales woven into Kyna's story. A. LaFaye writes a beautiful tale of risks and growth and adds Irish folklore into the mix.

    A magical tale for readers of all ages, WATER STEPS is the perfect read for anyone who believes in the impossible.

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