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Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains Hardcover – August 26, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—An adventurous young milkmaid named Lucy decides to climb the Scratchy Mountains to learn more about her mother, who vanished many years before. At the top of a mountain she discovers a town dominated by unnecessary rules, where the weather runs on schedule, and the townspeople live in alphabetical order. Lucy's friend Wynston, who is the prince of their small town, and who is supposed to be looking for a suitable princess to marry, follows her up the mountain and helps her rescue her pet prairie dog. As they work together, their spirited friendship blossoms. Ultimately, they discover that it's okay to bend rules if not break them. This fairy tale, set in a time "before television and interstate highways" in the land of Bewilderness, has appealing characters who grow and develop; clear, accessible language; lively dialogue; and a light humorous tone. While the pacing is a little slow and the central message somewhat heavy-handed, children may enjoy the whimsical setting and the sweet friendship that blossoms between the protagonists.—Mari Pongkhamsing, St. Perpetua School, Lafayette, CA
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Combining elements of a fairy tale and a folksy yarn, this story follows the parallel journeys of two young friends. Lucy, “the loveliest little milkmaid in the village of Thistle, or anywhere else in the Bewilderness,” misses her daily jaunt with Wynston, the crown prince whose father now insists that he attend to matters of state, specifically “princess-finding.” After Lucy takes off alone for the Scratchy Mountains, Wynston defies his father and follows her. This chapter book offers likable characters within a simply written, well-paced story. Magical elements, such as the river that flows up one side of the mountain and down the other, seem not just imaginative but also believable in the context of this childlike adventure story. With its spacious page design and the promise of illustrations (not seen, though the jacket art is charming), the book will appeal to many children in the middle grades as well as younger children reading at this level. Grades 3-5. --Carolyn Phelan
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Lucy's mother has been gone for years, and while her father and older sister have quietly adapted to life without her, Lucy is certain that she can find her mom and convince her to come back home. She packs lightly, leaves a note for her sister Sally, and sets out. Meanwhile, her best friend, Wynston is about to go on a journey of his own. This reluctant prince has been told he has to find a princess to marry. Suddenly, he decides to shake off the expectations of his royal father and the crown, and he leaves the castle on his favorite horse, Sprout, on a self-imposed quest to find Lucy instead.
Forget the idea of a mild, meek milkmaid - Snyder's young protagonist is strong, smart, and sure-footed. Lucy remains undeterred, even when the going gets rough. Optimistic and fun-loving, she is apt to break into song at any time, either giving voice to the songs her mother taught her when she was little or spontaneously singing about whatever she's doing or seeing. Though the terrain is tricky, Lucy always manages to find her way. She's also a bit of a Pied Piper, attracting a furry little creature she names Cat (that's really a prairie dog!) and trying to take care of him as well as Rosebud, the cow she brought along from her farm at the last minute.
Laurel Snyder's first novel for young readers, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, or, The Search for a Suitable Princess, is full of promise and levity. Snyder has created a fun story which easily moves back and forth between the adventures of the two leading characters, who meet additional silly characters to help them along the way. Detailed, captioned black-and-white illustrations by Greg Call compliment the story well, as do the foreshadowing chapter titles. (Example: "The Short Cut, the Long Cut, and the Curious Storm.") With wit, adventure, and an ending that will leave readers content and yearning to hug their parents and/or siblings, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains makes for a great read-aloud at home or in the classroom.