Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: The Healing Spell

The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little. (Grades 4-7.) Scholastic Press, July 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

The summer is off to a horrible start for eleven-year-old Livie Mouton. Her mother is in a coma after an accident on the bayou near their home. Only Livie knows what really happened - it was all her fault and she can't tell anyone or they'll hate her more than they do already. When the hospitals and medicine and doctors don't seem to be working, Livie goes down to the traiteur, a Cajun healer, to get a healing spell for her mother. But only after Livie has forgiven herself will the spell begin to work. 

Kimberley Griffiths Little brings the bayou to life in this moving portrait of one family's grief and hope. Livie is a young girl conflicted - feeling guilt over what happened to her mother and unable to confide in anyone. Livie's in that most tender of places, the place between childhood and adulthood, and she'll take the first steps toward growing up over this fateful summer.

What I loved most about this book was how I felt like I was right beside Livie, poling through the bayou with the sun-dappled water all around me and a breeze rustling the leaves on the trees. The bayou is a great setting for a book - intriguing and beautiful with an air of mystery and danger. Who knows what could be lurking there? I've never been to the bayou, but from the midnight frogging expeditions to the sudden, brief summer storms, I'm inclined to believe that Kimberley Griffiths Little got it right. 

Livie herself is a great character - so strong in some ways and so vulnerable in other ways. She's a tomboy and likes nothing better than hunting or exploring with her father. Her relationship with her mother has always been somewhat murky. Livie's older and younger sisters had a much closer bond with their mother. So, while Livie is perfectly comfortable handling her pirogue on the water or catching frogs for supper, she's perfectly uncomfortable taking care of her mother. In fact, she's so consumed by her guilt that she can't even bring herself to touch her mother while she's in this comatose state. 

Add to this that Livie is eleven years old, right at that age where she's about to start growing up. The changes are already happening - she's starting to notice boys, she's starting to realize that she has to take some responsibility around the house. And the dramatic events of this summer will only push her forward in her journey toward young adulthood. 

I'd try this one on tween girls, perhaps fans of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth or Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal. 

The Healing Spell is due on shelves July 1, so mark your TBR lists!