A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Packed with often obscure but fascinating information: DNA and how identical twins come to be; history and information about London; ways and habits of crows, who play a large role in the tale. Also thought-provoking moments, as when a present-day character finds a child's book of knowledge from 1947, notices that many of the countries no longer exist and many of the "facts" have been proven wrong, and wonders if that will happen when kids of future read media from our time. Iris startles her teacher by doing a report on presidential assassination attempts. Story takes place in Minneapolis; some of its disappearing objects are famous local art works, like Calder's Spoonbridge and Cherry.
Girl power is big here, in a way that supports differences rather than enforcing conformity. Strong messages of friendship, family, working together, the magic that results. Also, learning to see things from other people's point of view, and thinking about that before you speak.
Positive Role Models
Creepy adult villain imprisons, enchants, and kills his victims, among other bad things; he's all the scarier because of long path of interesting distractions leading to discovery. But forces arrayed against him are formidable, including fierce, protective Iris, who's profoundly suspicious of just about everything, and also shy, fragile Lark, who may be tougher than Iris gives her credit for. A number of adults show a lot of quiet, understated wisdom, even when being yelled at by kids (who usually have a pretty good reason to be so upset). Also helping out: other kids banding together to come to the rescue, a narrator whose identity doesn't emerge till the end, and a flock of crows.
Violence & Scariness
A villain imprisons, transforms, sometimes kills his victims with magic. Mention of when, in "Hansel and Gretel," Gretel tricks the witch and pushes her into the oven. Real-life conflicts and scary stuff, from mean kids at school to a creepy-looking store and lots of crows.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One girl has 26 snails. "I started with two ... but then ... you know snails."
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Products & Purchases
Real-life products and services, like when the girls use Skype to stay in touch with their father, who's away on work assignment. Superheroes, especially Captain Marvel and fact that there are relatively few girl superhero stories, also come up.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Anne Ursu's The Lost Girl is an emotionally complex story about identical, inseparable 11-year-old twin girls separated for the first time when they start fifth grade. And that's just the beginning of the unsettling events, as a peculiar store opens up in the neighborhood, a flock of crows settles in, and objects start disappearing all over Minneapolis. Magic, both scary and kind, plays a strong role in the plot; so do friendship, teamwork, family, and quick thinking. The Lost Girl is the exceptionally rare book whose storytelling is so skilled and touch so light that it packs in a whole lot of wisdom and life lessons without the slightest sense of talking down to either the developing character or the enthralled reader. "Hansel and Gretel," especially Gretel tricking the witch and pushing her into the oven, comes up. Violence includes a villain imprisoning, transforming, and sometimes killing his victims with magic, as well as real-life conflicts and scary stuff, from mean kids at school to a creepy-looking store and lots of crows.
Is It Any Good?
It doesn't get much better than Anne Ursu's complex, insightful tale of two twin girls, their strong bond, the "chisel people" who try to split them up, and strange doings in Minneapolis. There's a lot of wisdom and educational info packed into The Lost Girl, but it's woven into the page-turning story with the skill and empathy of an author who's clearly never forgotten what it feels like to be a kid.
"... they'd talked quickly and brightly and confidently, words tumbling out of their mouths like polished stones.
"But now Iris had to wonder if they'd been talking like that to distract the girls, like waving something shiny in front of their faces so they'd miss the monster crawling toward them. Grown-ups pretend that if they don't talk about things, kids won't know they're there. But you do know, at least you know something is there: you can see the weird blank space where the things they aren't talking about are supposed to be and you can see that something is lurking just behind it but you know you are supposed to pretend that you haven't noticed anything."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.