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Falling In Hardcover – March 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3–6—Isabelle Bean has no friends since her classmates consider her weird and even scary. She prefers thrift shops to the mall and dresses in whatever she feels like at the moment. One day, sitting in class concentrating on a strange buzzing sound, she is sent to the principal's office for not paying attention. She opens the door to a supply closet and is plunged into a fairy-talelike world in an alternate universe. She encounters children traveling to the "camps" to avoid being eaten by the Witch of the Woods and meets Hen, and they set out on their own in the opposite direction. Arriving at a cozy cottage, the girls are welcomed by Grete, an elderly woman who uses plants to heal. Isabelle learns that Grete is her grandmother and that she may be the "witch" the people have been taught to fear. Armed with only her determination and intuitive nature, Isabelle marches off to the camps to dispel the rumor of the witch. It is here the plot thickens as Dowell offers twists, turns, and a tragic near-death. Throughout the book she addresses readers directly as though she is telling the story to them. Isabelle's adventures come to a satisfying conclusion as she "falls out" of her school closet a little wiser and maybe a bit more likely to make a friend, and she reminds readers to just believe that "the doors are out there. Don't be afraid to turn the knob."—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Feeling like a changeling in her own world, sixth-grader Isabelle Bean falls into another, where she meets her healer grandmother, Grete, and corrects a misunderstanding that had terrorized generations of children. Although it uses traditional tropes and the faintly medieval setting of much of children’s fantasy, this perfectly paced story has enough realistic elements to appeal even to nonfantasy readers. The plot centers on Isabelle’s efforts to convince the other world’s children that her grandmother is not a wicked witch. This task is complicated but ultimately accomplished by Grete’s accidental poisoning at the hands of a small boy. The storyteller’s voice is evidenced by the opening line (“On the morning this story begins”) and occasionally interrupts the narrative with explanation and rumination. The decidedly opinionated narrator’s privileged stance lends a sense of directness and immediacy to the telling, and the adult perspective allows for more complex language and deeper understanding. Dreamy and distractible, Isabelle is an appealing protagonist whose newfound gift for hearing calls for help reflects how she has grown up enough to see beyond herself. Like Isabelle, her story has that “barely visible edge of otherworldliness” that gives it power. Grades 4-7. --Kathleen Isaacs

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141695032X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416950325
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Frances O'Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Children's Book Award; Where I'd Like to Be; the bestselling Secret Language of Girls trilogy; Chicken Boy; Shooting the Moon, which received a Christopher Award; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; The Second Life of Abigail Walker; Anybody Shining; and the teen novel Ten Miles Past Normal. She lives with her husband and two sons in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Silmarwen VINE VOICE on April 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Isabelle Bean never quite fit in at school or at home or anywhere really. So she is not a bit surprised to find another world on the other side of the nurse's closet door at school and she eagerly steps in. The children Isabelle meets in the other world presume that she is a witch and want nothing to do with her. After convincing the children that red, pointy boots do not a witch make, Isabelle is instructed to retreat to the children's camp in the woods so that the witch won't find her and eat her. But Isabelle doesn't always do what is sensible or even what she is safest. She decides that it would be much more interesting to meet a witch in this new world and promptly heads off in that direction. Along the way, she befriends Hen, a clever young girl about her own age, and Grete, a wise, old herb woman who is both more and less than she seems...

This is a charming little book intended for readers ages 8 - 12. I think that it is a good, gentle introduction to fantasy books if your child is interested in reading that genre. The story is fairly simple and easy to follow, but while the "mystery" is really no surprise for older readers, younger readers will delight in trying to figure out who Isabelle really is and if Grete is really a witch. The type is fairly large and the pages a bit smaller than usual so young readers will make rapid progress and should finish the book pretty quickly.

The writing style was my favorite part of the book. It is written in a confidential, story-telling mode that experienced actors and performers use to engage their audience. However, I will say that one of the things I both enjoyed and did not like about the writing style were the random asides inserted by the author.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kate Coombs VINE VOICE on March 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Isabelle Bean is not like the others. She's quirky and imaginative, a dreamer. As a result, she is thoroughly ostracized by the kids at school. Even her mother, an orphan and a widow herself, isn't certain how to interact with a girl who doesn't want to shop at the mall for clothes.

Surprisingly stoic about her social status, Isabelle is as much puzzled as troubled by the situation. A great reader, especially of fantasy, she decides she must be a changeling. For one thing, what is that buzzing noise she's been hearing all morning at school? Sent to the principal's office for not paying attention in class, Isabelle steps into the nurse's office and, imagining the possibilities, opens a mysterious door. Her final remark to a classmate waiting for the nurse is, "Yes, I believe I'd like to visit the country of Mice. I'll try to be back by lunchtime, but if I'm not, save one perfect french fry for me, would you?" Then Isabelle "falls in," emerging in another world, another school.

There the children take one look at her clothes and accuse her of being a witch. After semi-convincing them she's not, Isabelle sets out to explore her new domain. It turns out the local villages send their kids away to camp in the forest for fear of a horrible child-eating witch. Isabelle being Isabelle, she heads straight for the witch. Along the way, she meets a village girl named Hen who agrees to accompany her, although Isabelle hides her true purpose. They eventually come to the cottage of an old herbwoman named Grete who feeds them and teaches them her craft--but Isabelle begins to suspect that Grete is the witch.

Other than Isabelle's initial journey to another world and some mild psychic powers, there's not a whole lot of magic in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Maynard VINE VOICE on April 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Something could be on the otherside of that door. Perhaps another world? This is the setting to "Falling In" by Frances O'Roark Dowell. This book was overall inventive; I found that I didn't always know where the author was going with the story, and I like that.

Isabelle Bean is a misfit in her life. She thinks about things differently from the average kid. She ends up having an adventure that explains why she is so different. Or, was it all real? It is kind of similiar to Alice in Wonderland in the sense it leaves you wondering if the author intended the story to be real or not.

I really enjoyed the author's style of writing. She speaks to the reader in a confidential way. It was refreshing. Overall, the book itself is well-written. Nowadays, we get some great storylines, but the quality of writing isn't very good. Not so here. She demonstrates an ability to actually "write" in the true sense of the word. The book is written for ages 8-12. I think boys may like the story as well (or at least read it in secret).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NebraskaIcebergs on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Falling In is a welcome change from the darkness and broodiness that one gets these days in fantasies written for older youth. Without the burden of emotional angst, juvenile fantasies are free to launch readers into imaginative worlds. Written by Frances O'Roark Dowell, Falling In is full of whimsy and diverse friendships!

The summary alone intrigued me: "Isabelle Bean follows a mouse's squeak into a closet and falls into a parallel universe where the children believe she is the witch they have feared for years, finally come to devour them." First, that name Isabelle Bean. By no means nutty, but just enough that it hints at the weird and wacky world too come. Then there's the parallel universe. Immediately, I'm thinking about other examples in fiction such as when Lucy enters Narnia through the wardrobe in The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Coraline enters another twin house through a door in the book of the same title by Neil Gaiman. Last, there's the witch. The description "finally come to devour them" makes me think of the wicked witch in Hansel and Gretel. As I'm pretty sure that a middle-school girl who falls through a closet isn't that kind of witch, I'm eager to know exactly who this Isabelle Bean is.

As for the story itself, Falling In is like nothing I had expected for two reasons. First, there is the main character, whose response to a spelling list is to press her ear to her desk. That sounds a tad peculiar, doesn't it? Immediately, I want to know more! Moreover, I'm guessing that Isabelle gets into trouble with teachers. Dowell doesn't instantly allow Isabelle to escape her real world, which allows me as a reader to find out how much of an outcast she is.
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