by Erin E. Moulton
Philomel Books, 2011
Reviewed from personal copy.
Big things are about the happen at Maple's house. Mama's going to have a baby, which means now there will be four Rittle sisters instead of just three. But when baby Lily is born too early and can't come home from the hospital, Maple knows it's up to her to save her sister. So she and Dawn, armed with a map and some leftover dinner, head off down a river and up a mountain to find the Wise Woman who can grant miracles. Now it's not only Lily's survival that they have to worry about, but also their own. The dangers that Maple and Dawn encounter on their journey makes them realize a thing or two about miracles-and about each other.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I did enjoy it, but as a teacher, there were parts where I wanted to jump into the book and tell the girls not to make such foolish decisions. But as a child reader, I would have devoured this, I still have a strong attraction to survival stories. And while Maple and Dawn do make some foolish decisions, what person doesn't, adult or child?
Maple is determined to help her baby sister. After hearing stories for years about the Wise Woman and the spring that supposedly offers miraculous waters, Maple is sure that if she gets some of this water, she can help her struggling sister. Her older sister Dawn is finally convinced to go with her. But within minutes of leaving down the nearby river, Maple and Dawn are in trouble. Unfortunately, some bad decisions (in terms of survival) lead them into more danger when they encounter a pair of poachers willing to do anything to keep their secret. But the girls discover that they are tougher than they ever imagined and thanks to determination and loyalty to each other they find ways to help themselves.
There is much in this book worthy of discussion, making this book great for teaching or sharing. NOTE: There is some profanity as well as tense situations. The writing is great, the survival situations believable, and the motivations good if misguided. One thing I thought about here is the power of stories and how vital storytelling is to our lives as humans. It comes so naturally to us that sometimes as adults, especially adults who work with children, we don't stop to think about whether a particular story is appropriate or not. In this case, Maple believes a story she has been told and acting on it, gets herself into trouble. This is a good reminder for me that I need to select stories to share carefully.