Review: The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti

girl with borrowed wings

The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti

This is a stunning debut novel that will have your heart beating fast for many reasons.  Frenenqer was created in the brain of her father, the perfect girl.  So she tries to be exactly that for him by following his long list of rules about how to hold her fork, close doors silently, and never embarrass the family.  But she can also feel the absence of wings on her back, as if she had been meant to have them all along but instead she has the pressure of her father’s finger there.  Her life is lonely and dull, not even allowed to walk outside on her own in the oasis where they live surrounded by desert.  Everything changes though when she rescues the dying cat in the market, against her father’s wishes.  That dull lump of fur turns out to be a boy who can shapeshift, who can fly and who can show her new worlds and remembered places.  As their relationship grows into something beyond friendship, Frenenqer has to face her own life of isolation and her part in her father’s controlling ways.

Rossetti’s writing is magnificent.  She creates such a sense of claustrophobia in Frenenqer’s life, such a world of stifling expectation, lack of humanity and perfectionism.  That feeling is amplified by the setting of the oasis, limiting even further her options of a different sort of life.  When her rescuer arrives he represents breaking those rules, throwing them aside, and a freedom that she had never dreamed of.  Here is where Rossetti makes a choice that sets her book apart from others.  Frenenqer does not tumble easily into that freedom, she fights it, struggles with it, and almost rejects it.  And it all makes wonderful sense.

Frenenqer is a unique character.  She is a mix of world traveler and solitary reader.  She yearns for freedom and shuns it.  She longs to be touched but rejects that too.  She is shown love of a new sort and doesn’t know what to do with it.  She is beyond brave but also terrified.  She is certainly abused mentally by her father, ignored by her mother, but also defies them in small ways that show you she is not cowed by them yet.  She is pure and lovely complexity that works.

Beautifully written, wonderfully sculpted, this novel is a fresh look at fantasy from a new author.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Review: The Scariest Thing of All by Debi Gliori

scariest thing of all

The Scariest Thing of All by Debi Gliori

This story of a very frightened young rabbit is uplifted by the marvelous illustrations.  Pip was a very little rabbit and had a huge list of things that he was scared of.  The list included rain because it reminded him of the sound a leggy wiggler makes in its web, bubbles in the water reminded him of a gobbler hiding at the bottom of the pond, and tree stumps were like the teeth of a giant wood troll.  He exhausted himself because he was so worried and frightened all the time.  He was so tired he fell fast asleep until dinnertime.  When he woke up, he heard a dreadful Raaar! Pip ran and ran, as far away from the sound as he could.  Finally, he stopped deep in the woods.  He saw a scary thing nearby, and heard the sound again.  Pip was going to have to be brave and smart to figure out what was making that horrible noise.

Gliori’s story of a small rabbit who is afraid of almost everything will resonate with children.  The ending has Pip becoming a much braver rabbit.  The book does conclude a bit too quickly and neatly.  Gliori spends much of her story developing the depths of fear and panic that Pip is living with.  All of that plays out very strongly, creating a firm foundation for the story. 

The art here really makes this picture book special.  It moves from the sunny warmth of Pip’s family and home to the dark blueness of a woods at night.  Throughout the woods scenes there is an incredible blue moon rising above him, giving a haunted feel to those pages that is marvelously chilling. 

This would make a great pick for a preschool Halloween story time because it has monsters and creepy things but won’t frighten.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.