- Paperback: 226 pages
- Publisher: Backinprint.com (June 8, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0595321801
- ISBN-13: 978-0595321803
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 66 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Changeling Paperback – June 8, 2004
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About the Author
The recipient of three Newbery Honor Book awards for The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm, Zilpha Keatly Snyde's first book was published in 1964. Since that time she has authored 42 books, mostly for children aged 9 to 13, but also including two books for young adults, four picture books for younger children and a book of poetry.
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Martha Abbot is a lonely, suburban-born coward who forms an unlikely friendship with Ivy, a member of the notorious Carson family that is always skipping town for trouble with the law. Martha is fascinated by the peculiar, almost otherworldly Ivy, who claims she is a changeling switched at birth with the real Ivy. As they grow up together, Martha and Ivy get into all sorts of scrapes and weave an intricate dream world where both belong, but neither can stay.
In The Changeling, seven-year-old Martha Abbott feels out of place as the youngest of a family of high-achieving go-getters. She doesn’t seem to have the same ambition and boldness as her siblings, parents, or grandmother, all of whom refer to her as the Mouse because of her shy, retreating nature.
One day at school, Martha meets a new classmate named Ivy Carson who says she is not really a member of the Carson family, which is notorious for getting into all kinds of trouble, but rather a changeling—a fairy child switched at birth with a human child. Intrigued by Ivy’s firm belief in something so fantastical, Martha starts spending all her free time with this highly imaginative girl. Suddenly, through Ivy’s eyes, their mundane surroundings reveal magic talismans, secret entrances to other worlds, and possibilities Martha never dreamed of pursuing. Although the kids at school taunt Ivy for being a Carson, which according to gossip is the same as being a reprobate, Martha sticks resolutely by her friend’s side, even when Ivy’s family moves away every other year to lay low and then comes back again.
What keeps Martha loyal to Ivy over the years is not only Ivy’s beautiful imagination but also her belief in Martha’s potential. Ivy encourages Martha to come up with her own ideas, to try things she’s never tried before. In one scene, Martha confesses her fear that she might be sent away to live with her grandmother in Florida. Ivy declares they must do a spell, and instructs Martha to start setting up an altar in the woods outside their neighborhood, where they spend much of their time playing. “I don’t know how,” Martha protests. “You don’t need to know how,” Ivy says. “Just start doing it. You find out as you go along.”
Not much is spelled out about the Carson family’s troubles, but Ivy says her mother drinks too much and her father gets into shady business deals, so the reader gets just enough information to understand that Ivy’s background is anything but enchanted. I felt a mixture of wonder and heartbreak at Ivy’s determination to never grow up, like a female Peter Pan. “What’s wrong with grown-ups,” she says, “is that they think they know all the answers.” Together, she and Martha invent a spell that will keep them from growing up forever: “Know all the Questions, but not the Answers—Look for the Different, instead of the Same—Never Walk where there’s room for Running—Don’t do anything that can’t be a Game.”
Will Martha and Ivy grow up, or will their spell work? Read the rest of the story and find out as you go along. I’ll just say this: there’s no greater magic than friendship.
By definition, a changeling is a child switched at birth, with fairies, trolls and the like usually doing the switching. Ivy comes from a family of n'e'er-do-wells, petty thieves and con artists, who simply disappear just before they are caught. It is said that if a child has at least one strong person in her childhood, she can overcome abuse, lack of love or the shame of a notoriously disreputable family. Sometimes Ivy would get to stay with her highly imaginative great-aunt when the family committed another flight out of town to evade arrest. It is from her that Ivy learns to use her imagination.
Martha, the youngest child in her family, doesn't quite fit in with its very structured members. Martha is not time-conscious or activity-bound, whereas all the others live by their schedules. Martha is overweight, shy, and cries too much.
However, when the two girls are together, they--initiated by Ivy-- create the most wondrous worlds where they play and play and play. Sometimes it is a year or two before Ivy disappears again and Martha must cope without her.
The novel, of course, is the story of an enduring friendship that picks up exactly where it leaves off the days Ivy had to disappear with her family. Since the story is narrated through Martha, the reader is not privy to Ivy's secret thoughts, but we learn what kind of child she is--free-spirited, creative, imaginative.
Any time one reads a changeling story, one must be prepared for surprises. Plot complications are introduced by an antagonist who represents Ivy's and Martha's opposite qualities: peer influence, devious behavior, and disrespect. It comes from Martha's neighbor, a girl their age who dominates their social scene. She tells lies about the two that irreversibly change their lives.
Things end well for Ivy, although the process is painful. Things end well for Martha because of Ivy's friendship as catalyst. It is a story well worth reading, not only for Ivy and Martha, but for your own memories if you knew a changeling.
My best friend was a "changeling" through imagination. She was free-spirited, imaginative, and the only one with a sense of humor among a cast of serious people who lived in drudgery.