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Girlwood Hardcover – May 19, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–8—Twelve-year-old Polly is beset by trouble in her rural Idaho home. Her parents have divorced, and her punk and probably pregnant older sister, Bree, has run away. Her former friend's father is bulldozing the majestic larch trees of the old forest to "make the woods more accessible" to rich dwellers in a new gated community. But, Polly can see auras; understands the herbal teachings of her New Age grandmother, Baba; and uses her talents as best she can to forestall the inevitable destruction. Believing Bree is hiding in the forest, she leaves offerings throughout the winter. Herbal teachings—some dangerous, with warnings for would-be experimenters—begin each chapter. But Baba uses herbal teas to drug Polly's overwrought mother several times, and with few exceptions, adults behave abominably and stupidly. The natural details may ring true but the stereotypical narrow-mindedness of the rural community is unchallenged and the New Agey tone will put off many readers.—Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Dean’s intriguing first novel twines together a mystery about a girl’s runaway sibling with an Idaho community’s conservation debate. When news arrives that plans for a subdivision threaten a beloved patch of wilderness, the grief 12-year-old Polly feels amplifies her anxiety for her troubled, missing sister, who Polly believes has taken shelter in a grove within the threatened wilderness. Too many subplots crowd Dean’s storytelling, with the illness of Polly’s herbalist grandmother adding unnecessary weight, and the unsatisfactorily (though not unhappily) resolved mystery strand doesn’t entirely work. It’s Dean’s celebration of the earthy, living magic that exists “everywhere, in everything, all the time” that will lure YAs, who may be especially fascinated by the deepened experience of the world Polly gleans from her ability to glimpse others’ auras. Dean even includes training instructions for readers hoping to see auras, too. Offer this to readers drawn by Wiccan spiritualities—never mentioned here by name, but which seem to inform Dean’s richly green-tinted storytelling, rooted in the connections between wild places and womanly strength. Grades 6-9. --Jennifer Mattson
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618883908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618883905
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Claire Dean is the pseudonym of novelist Christy Yorke, who lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, two children, a black Lab, and a noisy cockatiel named Pablo. After years of writing adult fiction, Yorke decided to write two young adult novels, one for her daughter and one for her son, and took their names as her pseudonym. GIRLWOOD is the story of a girl who finds her strength and a bit of magic in the woods, and SPIRIT CALLER is the tale of one boy's journey to adulthood, and the spirit guides who help him along the way. Nature, and the forest in particular, has always been a vital part of the author's life, from the time she spent at her father's cabin in Prescott, Arizona, to the home she and her husband built in the woods outside of Boise, to the electricity-less and somewhat haunted Idaho cabin she's been fortunate enough to summer in, and continually renovate. The ghost's name is Mr. Jackson.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
23%
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See all 13 customer reviews
This is a book that flows beautifully and has great meaning behind it.
Kyrsten
One evening, Baba shows Polly a hidden path in the middle of the woods that leads to a beautiful place Polly names Girlwood.
Teen Reads
And the story is beautiful and inspiring for kids who want to save the earth.
Lichen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on March 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One night, Polly is awakened from a sound sleep to find her older sister, Bree, kissing her. As Bree's blood red aura trails behind her like the tattered wings of a ruined fairy, she tells Polly that she's leaving for the woods, so that she can try to be alright again. Half asleep, and not sure if she's really seeing her emaciated, drugged out sister or an actual fairy, Polly lets her go, with no argument over how much Bree has destroyed since she started using drugs.

No one believes her when she tells them Bree has run to the woods, so it's up to Polly to provide everything her sister will need. Winter is almost there, and a developer is coming soon to trade out the trees for a housing development. Following the guidance of her grandmother, Baba, Polly knows that she could rely on herself to survive alone in the forest, and, with her help, so can Bree.

Luckily, Polly finds that she doesn't have to be alone. Others may not be able to see the colorful bands of light around each other that display exactly who they are inside, but they will believe her. Under the protection of the hidden grove that Baba has shown her, Polly and her friends will learn that, with a little magic and a little faith, anything is possible.

Beautifully written and with vibrant imagery, this book will strike a chord with anyone who has found magic and solace in their own secluded spot of wilderness. The explanations that head each chapter of the different wildflowers and their medicinal uses are also fascinating, as is the descriptions of various auras and what they mean. The back cover states that the author wrote this as a gift for her daughter, and she will be writing one for her son next. I'll be looking forward to reading that.

Reviewed by: Allison Fraclose
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Schnavid on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I came across this endorsement of Girlwood by Jane Goodall. I've been an admirer of Goodall's environmental work for many years. After reading the quote below, I had to buy a copy of Girlwood. It's an enchanting and magical book that teaches reverence of our sacred earth, as well as empowerment of the individual. I'll be giving my copy to my 13-year-old niece, who I'm sure will love it.

"This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a teenager. It emphasizes the healing power of animals and nature which has helped so many young people cope with their problems all over the world. It will help young readers to understand that it is okay to be different. And that every individual can play a role in making this a better world."

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE
Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute
UN Messenger of Peace
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shawna on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put Girlwood down. I am sharing it with my daughter who is almost thirteen. Because Girlwood touches on many issues that mothers and daughters face such as the push and pull of letting go and coming back together, mistakes, peer pressure, love, insecurity, accomlishment, finding oneself, coming of age..., it is the perfect book to read together to open the many conversations that begin during this volatile and beautiful time of our lives. It is real, and it is fanciful. It is empowering and it is beautiful!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ann on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is my favorite book ever! A beautifully-written, uplifting, green story of a girl who refuses to believe that her sister is lost forever. Three generations of women find their way back to each other and magic literally lights up the woods. Everyone should read this book. Perfect for mothers and daughters to read together.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kyrsten on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. At first I thought it was a bit odd, but once into it I was pleasantly surprised at how good it actually was. Each chapter starts with a excerpt about different plants and their medicinal uses. I find it a great and interesting way to start a chapter. This is a book that flows beautifully and has great meaning behind it.
Polly has never quite fit in, she loves the ugly forest nearby and most think her grandma is a witch. Polly has a secret though,since she was little has been able to see peoples auras. But then her beautiful, popular, druggie sister Bree disappears into the nearby forest and cant be found, but everyone believes the worst. Only Polly believes that her sister is living off the land in the forest. Polly finds evidence that her sister is living in a clearing she names Girlwood. Here she leaves food and clothes for Bree. Everything is better in Girlwood for Polly. But soon a developer plans to tear down the forest she loves and create a gated neighborhood. Through her hardships Polly soon finds who her true friends are.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kellie M. Powell on February 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Polly Greene is a perceptive, idealistic twelve-year-old who's never been a part of the 'in' crowd. For her, junior high is, at its best, "merely unpleasant," and at its worst, "a sick joke." Her parents have recently separated, and her 16-year-old sister, Bree, who was once Polly's friend and confidante, has become increasingly troubled and confrontational. Polly has been watching her sister destroy herself by abusing drugs and starving herself for months when Bree suddenly runs away. Polly is convinced that her sister is living in the nearby woods.

Polly's grandmother, Baba, is rumored to be a witch because of her homegrown remedies and organic medicines. Even though Polly's parents don't believe her at first, Baba encourages Polly to leave food, clothing and supplies in a beautiful larch grove in the woods for her missing sister. She names the grove "Girlwood," and believes strongly in its majesty and its secrets. But a local developer is threatening to refurbish the woods in order to put up tract housing. Polly and a few friends sneak off to the woods to build shelter for Bree in Girlwood, which, if the developers have their way, will be turned into a community swimming pool.

Polly dreams about fairies and sees colors and shapes in the aura of those around her. She believes in the power of plants to cure everything from skin irritation to brain tumors. She tells her classmates, "Magic is all the things we don't understand and aren't meant to... Magic is a forest that can heal itself, and everything in it, if we don't tear it down first." The novel blends environmentalism and supernatural elements to create a down-to-earth fairy tale about the power and beauty of nature. Girlwood celebrates the strength in every young woman, and it encourages individuality and independence.
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