The Water and the Wild
Written by K. E. Ormsbee
Illustrated by Elsa Mora
Chronicle Books 4/14/2015
440 pages Age 10—14
“For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.
And then a door opens in the apple tree.
Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.” [book jacket]
The beginning of The Water and the Wild draws the reader in with the sharp writing and imaginative descriptions. We meet 12-year-old Lottie, an orphan, who lives in a New Kemble Island boardinghouse with a reluctant Mrs. Yates, whom the author describes as dour with a dislike of children.
“In her opinion, children belonged to a noxious class of furless, yippy house pets that did nothing but make noise at inconvenient times and crash into her potted gardenias.”
Lottie has only two things she cares about: the apple tree, where she hides her keepsakes in a copper box she found hidden in its roots, and her best friend Eliot. Each year, Lottie placed a wish in her keepsake copper box and returned it to the roots of the apple tree. Each year, on her birthday, an unknown writer sent Lottie her wish.
Eliot is ill with an unknown incurable disease, and nearing the end of his young life. Lottie decides to ask for a cure for the incurable. Soon after, her life changes course when Adelaide, a sprite, urgently whisks Lottie to safety down the roots of the apple tree to Limn, a mysterious place that exists under New Kemble Island. Here, Lottie meets Mr. Wilfer, a sprite healer, Adelaide and Oliver’s father, and Lottie’s benefactor. Mr. Wilfer has been working on an “Otherwise Incurable” potion. Problem is, this is supposed to be for the king, not Eliot, and when it does not arrive as expected, the king arrests Mr. Wilfer. With the cure in hand, Adelaide, Oliver, Oliver’s half-sprite, half-wisp friend Fife, and Lottie take off for the castle to save Mr. Wilfer.
I enjoyed The Water and the Wild but the journey to the castle felt like it would never end, though there are many bright spots along the way that I loved and will intrigue readers. The three kids travel through strange lands filled with danger. Along the way, Lottie learns she is half human-half sprite—a Halfling—and the Heir of Fiske making her heir apparent to the throne and a target of the current, rather cruel, king. The worlds of both New Kemble Island and Limn are easy to visualize.
Oliver speaks in the words of poets, all of which the author annotates after the story. This can make Oliver’s speech confusing at times for both Lottie and the reader, but is an unusual and imaginative way to introduce kids to classic poetry. Lottie, the odd-girl-out in both worlds, is an easy character to cheer on and kids in similar situations will easily identify with Lottie’s loneliness and the cruel, bullying students she encounters at home.
I wish I knew how the story ended. Maybe there is a sequel in the works, but as it is now, Lottie is somewhere in Limn doing something and, as the author writes,
“This is better.”
I do recommend The Water and the Wild to advanced middle grade readers and adults who enjoy a good story filled with suspense, unusual beings, adventure, and a little magic. The illustrations at the head of each chapter are made from cut paper. See Elsa Mora’s website for more examples of this incredible artform. The Water and the Wild is K. E. Ormsbee’s debut novel.
NOTE: There is a sequel planned for Fall 2016, as yet un-titled.
THE WATER AND THE WILD. Text copyright © 2015 by K. E. Ormsbee. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Elsa Mora. Reproduced by permission of the Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.
Learn more about The Water and the Wild HERE.
Meet the author, K. E. Ormsbee, at her website: http://www.keormsbee.com/
Meet the illustrator, Elsa Mora, at her website: http://www.artisaway.com/
Find more middle grade novels at the Chronicle Books website: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
© KLR — Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews