Emma is an outsider, even to her own family. Although her parents and sickly younger sister all are dark haired and dark eyed, Emma has a long, pale face, white hair, and an almost abnormal compulsion to protect her family night and day. Her concern is directed primarily at her younger sister, Summer, whose mysterious fainting spells slowly sap her strength. Emma does not trust her new-age, bee-keeping mother or her impractical artist father to keep Summer safe. Emma is dismayed when she learns that her mother has accepted a job for Emma away from the house, caring for a bed-ridden man. Emma becomes more enthusiastic about her new job when the man introduces her to a game in which she must protect a band of characters and safely conduct them across a wild and magical world. Soon she becomes so involved in the game that she has waking dreams about it. She finds herself spying on other characters in the game and listening to their strategy. Emma soon begins to wonder if she really is dreaming. Buffie has set out to create a complex and highly imaginative fantasy world. Unfortunately, the complexity of this world sometimes is so detailed that it becomes evident why many fantasy writers plan on trilogies or series to develop a story line. For this reviewer, the most intriguing part of the story is the character of Emma and her compulsion to care for those she loves. This story line is much more compelling than the fantasy world. Fans of Buffie's earlier work and those readers enticed by the title, thinking the book will be a story of the supernatural, will find this book hard to put down. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School,defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Kids Can Press, 264p. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Alison Kastner VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
Although most children go through a period of feeling that they don't belong in their families, it's worse when they don't look at all like anyone. Emma, formerly named Winter, is fair (almost to albinism) in a dark-haired family, and feels fiercely protective of her younger sister Summer. Summer is frail and has seizures, and Emma is terrified that she will die. The community is insular and doesn't accept strangers willingly or quickly. Emma's mother is resented for her leaving years ago, but since she has come home again to care for her late father's bees, she's accepted well enough. Her husband, however, is a stranger. To make the situation worse, Emma's father is building a "henge"a small Stonehengein the field behind the house. He's considered on the mad side of eccentric. One of the neighbors hires Emma to sit with his elderly father every day during the summer, and while she doesn't really want to, she's soon caught up in his fantasy game. The fantasy becomes a terrifying reality as Emma realizes that she actually doesn't belong to her familyand neither does Summer. To modern teens, the term "changeling" may come immediately to mind. The game that seemed a fantasy isn't. It's just a game, Emma thinks, but to the players the game is their lives, and the stakes are enormous, and she and Summer have become valuable little pawns. A terrific story with just enough ties to reality and Faerie to make us suspend disbelief. The fact that it takes place in western Canada adds to its appeal to US readers. 2000, Kids Can Press, $16.95. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
Gr 7-10-This fantasy is set in present-day Manitoba, but is loosely rooted in Celtic mythology. Emma's eccentric family moves into her beekeeper grandfather's farmhouse after his death; her mother is determined to tend the hives and support the family, while her artist father fashions a modern version of a stone circle called Bruide Henge in the cow pasture. Emma is at first disappointed when her mother gets her a summer job sitting with a neighbor's elderly father instead of indulging the teen's obsession to watch over her ailing younger sister. Soon, however, Emma becomes intrigued by the Maxims' mysterious surroundings and by the board game that the old man teaches her. The mystery continues as she stumbles into a strange world and overhears a queen plotting to steal a child. Soon she finds herself the central player in a wild game with kings, queens, and druids fighting over an otherworldly kingdom and its heir. Emma's actions will affect herself, her family, this world, and possibly several others. Filled with suspense, adventure, and colorful characters, this story will appeal to readers of Franny Billingsley's The Folk Keeper (Atheneum, 1999) and will entertain fans of the genre. While a familiarity with Celtic myths is not necessary to enjoy the story, those who know the tales will delight in finding fresh interpretations of characters rarely brought to life in children's literature.- Heather Dieffenbach, Lexington Public Library, KY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
A teenager and her little sister discover that they are pieces in a game played across worlds in this suspenseful tale from the Canadian author of The Dark Garden (1997). Though set apart by her exotic white hair and skin, plus an oddly shaped birthmark, Emma has always been the sensible, dependable worrier of the family. She has plenty to worry about, too. As her mother struggles to bring the family bee farm back to profitability, and her sister Summer, subject to ever more frequent spells of weakness, seems to be fading away before her eyes, the old stone circle that her father, an environmental artist, is rebuilding seems to be attracting both odd incidents and mysterious strangers to the area. Suddenly, Emma is shuttling between her world and another, where two moons hang in the sky and overheard conspirators discuss a Game, and a Child, in chilling terms. Emma slowly pieces the puzzle together, identifying the Game's powerful Players, figuring out the Rules, and discovering her roleand Summer's too. As it turns out, they are both "Pithwitchen," changelings sent to replace dead human newborns, and Summer is heir to a throne in that other place. From ominous beginning to tense climax, this page-turner, reminiscent in ways both of William Sleator's Interstellar Pig (1984) and Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Moorchild (1996), will keep readers guessingand as the Game ends in a draw, they'll be set up for sequels, too. (Fiction. 11-13)