By: Pamela Hartley
Publication Date: March 2017
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: May 3, 2017
A thirteen-year-old girl learns the truth about giants in Pamela Hartley’s coming-of-age middle-grade fantasy.
Thirteen-year-old Isabel (Izzy) LaDuke may be known to all of the other Groundlings from the Rabbit Foot Region as "top rate" in target practice, but the truth is that she hasn’t killed anything scarier than a spider. Regardless, Izzy determines to find the culprit stealing her family’s cows whenever there is a full moon. She is certain that she’s seen the shadow of a Behemorph, a shape-shifting giant, around her family’s farm. Izzy ponders why a beast would be on Groundling Land since Behemorphs have been forbidden from there ever since the War of Separation.
Unbeknownst to her parents, Izzy decides to follow a beast that is holding the family’s prized two-ton Angus in its massive grubby hand. What happens next is unexpected. Izzy gets transported via one of two siloports to the land that hovers “above the clouds,” and more specifically to the home of Boone, a Behemorph and the Gatekeeper of the Great Temperate Forest. Fearful now that she can’t return home until the next full moon, Izzy is shocked when Boone offers to help get her back to her family. But it’s not as easy as Izzy thinks when she discovers that someone is trying to destroy the siloports.
Rising author Pamela Hartley takes a Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-like tale to a whole new level in her attractive read. Although there are comical references to the beloved fairytale and Hartley’s framework certainly reflects the people of the land versus the giants living beyond the clouds, there are no magic beans and a beanstalk. For readers who may be disappointed by this fact, you are in for a pleasant surprise since what Hartley presents is far better than one could imagine.
Carefully woven into Hartley’s entertaining plot are thought-provoking themes. Beginning with her principle character Izzy, Hartley has created what appears to be a typical teenager who doesn’t like chores and homework. Not much is mentioned about Izzy’s social life regarding girlfriends and especially boyfriends since it’s the boys who pick on her a bunch because of her wild head of hair. The school situations give a glimpse into Izzy’s low self-esteem and self-doubt. She is also riddled with fears—much of which is directly connected to her lack of confidence. Hartley places Izzy in situations where her choices will either help or hurt her.
Another one of Hartley’s profound themes doesn’t have anything to do with Izzy directly as much as it is a reflection of society and society’s ills. Izzy has been taught that the Behemorphs are evil. The history of the Groundlings even reinforces that belief. But when she comes face to face with Boone, everything that she has learned gets thrown out the window. Without using the term, Hartley addresses race issues that transcend beyond a fictional tale.
Great character development, engaging and often hilarious dialogue and scenes, and plenty of unexpected everything, Hartley’s narrative embodies the heart of a true storyteller.
Quill says: Kudos to Pamela Hartley for producing a fun-filled fantastical work that is certain to be a middle-grade favorite.