The Twistrose Key



Magical animal-afterlife adventures of a girl and her mouse.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Lin's frequent mantra, courtesy of her father, is, "Bring your brain to the party." Lin's parents are scholars; her mom's an expert on folk songs from lost cultures, and songs play an important role in the adventure. Kids will pick up some scientific terms amid all the fantasy, including the Latin names for several animals. Both Lin and Rufus appreciate and study maps.

Positive messages

Strong messages of courage, intelligence, endurance, love for family and friends, and making the right choices. Not all readers, particularly those mourning a beloved companion, will find the story's treatment of loss, change, and growth satisfying, but they'll appreciate the story of a brave heroine willing to risk her life for the mouse she loves and the world he now inhabits.

Positive role models

Lin's clever and brave through terrifying danger and physical hardship. The strong bond between her and Rufus gives them both confidence that each has the other's back, whatever the perils. Although she doesn't necessarily tell her parents everything that's on her mind, Lin has a strong relationship with them. She sneaks out of the family house in the dead of night to pursue her quest (and then frequently worries about what will happen if her mom finds her missing in the morning).


Lin sustains numerous wounds and injuries, and the blood she sheds plays a magical role. There's a vivid description of the doctor (a cat) stitching up her wounds. Several evil characters want to kill her and sometimes nearly succeed; they also confine her to a dank, scary prison. Lin and her friends face near-constant danger from attacks, battles, dark magic, and evil beings. Some characters, mostly villains, are killed, dramatically but without gratuitous gore.

Not applicable

Following their imprisonment in a giant birdcage, Lin and Rufus share many inside jokes about parrot dung. Rufus calls a cowardly character who's betrayed him a "giant heap of rat dung."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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.

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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."

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Tone Almhiell
Illustrator:Ian Schoenherr
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dial Books
Publication date:October 22, 2013
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old April 28, 2015

Amazing Story!

This is a great story! In the story, a girl finds the "Twistrose Key" that unlocks a portal to a place where pets that were loved go when they die. There, she meets her pet mouse. In the world of Sylver, everything depends on the girl with the Twistrose Key. There is no sex, swearing, drugs, or consumerism. There are a few scenes where then girl and her allies fight monsters, but there are no injuries. This is a great book for kids.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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