A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Twistrose Key, Norwegian author Tone Almhiell's debut, is a thrilling, complex tale of friendship and heroism with strong appeal to magic- and animal-loving kids. Based on the premise of an afterlife for animals whose childen have loved them, the story transports an 11-year-old girl who's mourning her pet mouse's death to a magical world, where she meets her lost friend and joins him in a desperate quest. Kids grieving over a lost companion may find the tale comforting or heartbreaking, depending on their own sensibilities. Often in mortal danger, protagonists suffer grave wounds and shed much blood, some of which figures in the story's magic. Some characters, mostly evil, are killed.
What's the story?
Ever since her mom's job took the family from their happy country home to a dark, depressing house in the city, 11-year-old Lindelin Rosenquist's been missing her friend Anders and the troll-hunting games they used to play for hours. Adding to the misery, her beloved pet mouse, Rufus, her companion on all her adventures, has died. After finding a mysterious envelope addressed to "Twistrose," she's swept away to the wintry world of Sylver, where she's amazed to meet a child-size Rufus. She quickly learns that, as with other human children before her, she's been summoned to avert a disaster that would wipe out Sylver, where the animals loved by their children dwell after death. By evening, she and Rufus must find a strange boy who's crucial to the magic that sustains Sylver; he's gone missing, and evil forces want to keep him that way.
Is it any good?
A Norwegian who majored in English literature, animal lover and first-time author Tone Almhiell concocts a richly imaginative world, intriguing characters, and a fast-moving adventure. Both in Lin's regular life and in the snowy world of Sylver, there's a strong Scandinavian sensibility, from the scholarly pursuits of Lin's parents to Sylver's panoply of magical snow creatures. Ian Schoenherr's black-and-white illustrations of cozy towns and spellbound landscapes help bring Sylver to life.
Almhiell's turns of phrase are sometimes jarring to the American ear (e.g. Lin's father usually addresses her as "Miss Rosenquist," and she and Rufus punctuate their conversation with frequent "One point to Rufus of Rosenquist" and the like), but it's worth the effort to follow her densely crafted definitions of landscapes, emotional and otherwise: "In the troll hunt, they always used code names...[She] had taken a new one, inspired by the rosebush over Rufus's grave...It reminded her of the junipers that clung to the Trollheim Mountains with their twisted roots; they never let go no matter how cruel the wind blew. And that's when she had thought of it -- the perfect name for a troll hunter who was exiled for the moment, but not forever: Twistrose."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories about kids being whisked to magical worlds and having adventures there are so popular. How does The Twistrose Key compare with similar tales?
Do you agree with the characters who believe that it's a normal, inevitable part of growing up to forget the animals you love? Can you think of any books or movies that equate coming of age with loss of a pet?
If you and your beloved pet could have a grand adventure together, what would it be?
- Author: Tone Almhiell
- Illustrator: Ian Schoenherr
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: October 22, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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