This book is so refreshing. It is a fantasy set in Appalachia in 1872. Based on a little known fairy tale, the story incorporates elements of the original fairy tale, Appalachian folklore, and historical/geographical aspects in a truly captivating way. From the first words, the reader is hooked by Magpie's incredible voice as well as the fantastic scenario.
Milo needs his foot, so that he can get to High Jerusalem to play in the choir. Magpie is the only one who can deliver it to him, but that's not all--the moon is missing, and Magpie is also the only one who can save her and only by bridging the gap between to warring families.
The voice in this book is what stands out. Magpie is a strong female character, but boys love her, too. The thing that really captures readers and keeps them going, however, is the imaginative plot. Although Keehn is drawing from several established legends and fairy tales, the text is fresh and surprising. There are no shocking revelations. Young readers will predict many of the outcomes, but it's a fairy tale--we already know the ending, right? That isn't the point. The journey's the thing, and oh what a journey it is.
I read this to my fourth grade class, and they are on the edge of their seat from beginning to end. This is a terrific book for reluctant readers male and female.
Violence and Sexual Content: Milo cuts off his foot, and the foot is kept on the mantle, stolen by Magpie, and carried around in her pocket. It is wondrously devoid of decay. Scarey goblins figure prominently. The scratch at doors and windows, and have their fingers smashed with pots. The head of a beheaded man floats in a well, and offers direction as a kind of oracle. At the end of the book, Magpie receives her "monthlies."