by Polly Horvath
Melissa, Amanda, and their little brother Pee Wee live in Ohio. When the baby-sitter comes down with bubonic plague just before a planned, parents-only trip, the only person available to look after them is their big, strange, mannish aunt from British Columbia. As far as the three children are concerned, it might as well be a different planet. Their Dad didnt want Aunt Sally to come down and spend time with his kids, and he has never told his family much about his boyhood on Vancouver Island. So now that Sally has the children to herself for a week, they have a lot of catching up to do.
Sally catches them up with a series of compelling and memorable stories reminiscences of growing up in a large family in a small, woodsy, coastal community in Canada. Some of the stories are outrageously funny. Some of them are seriously spooky. Some are shockingly sad. And at the end you finally understand the bitterness that separates Sally from her brother, the childrens parents.
The children themselves are drawn in a few brush-strokes, yet very clearly and tenderly as well. Without apologizing for what must be the great regret of her life, Sally slowly and (you sense) reluctantly pours out the story. And though she doesnt come out and say it, you feel that she is doing this to teach a lesson to the children about sticking together as a family, and not letting what happened to her siblings happen to them.
Like many of Horvaths books, the main story in this book is essentially a cabinet for the display of the many curious stories within. Yet it is a story whose beginning, middle, and end are all in the right proportions, and will all stick with you for a good long while. The recipient of several honors, The Trolls is a surprising story given that, in spite of its title, it never shows you any actual trolls. What it does show is the lady next door who murdered her dog, and the freeloading uncle, and the grief-stricken aunt, and the pinball-wizard Mom, and the way some children are privileged to have a truly gifted story teller open up to them, and the way one bad decision can rip a family apart forever. Just try to stop reading it. Just try to forget it when youre done. Just try.
Recommended Age: 12+
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