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BOOK REVIEWS, Fantasy, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions

THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY by Victoria Forester

The Girl Who Could Fly is the story of Piper McCloud, a young girl born on a farm who discovers at a young age that she is able to fly.  Her parents are confused and worried by their daughter’s gift and keep her isolated from others in the community for just that reason.

When Piper and her parents attend the 4th of July picnic, Piper is deliriously happy at the idea of making friends and spending time with children her own age.  The picnic is a disaster; Piper’s dreams of friendship are crushed and when the neighbors witness Piper’s ability she and her family are met with fear and scorn.

Piper’s public display also causes Dr. Letitia Hellion to show up on her doorstep. Dr. Hellion and a large government entourage propose to take Piper to a facility for children with “special” abilities where she can be trained and taught and kept safe.  Piper’s parents love her, but fear they are not capable of giving her what she needs given her special abilities.  Piper travels with Dr. Hellion to the Institute of Normalcy, Stabilty And NonExceptionality (I.N.S.A.N.E.).  The Institute is a subterranean fortress.  Piper is awed by the school and by Dr. Hellion, who seems like an angel, rescuing her from all the doubts and questions that have been swirling around in her mind.  She makes real friends for the first time in her life!

Piper gradually discovers that none of the staff or the students are who she believes them to be.  She begins to realize that her safe haven is really placing her in mortal danger.  Piper struggles to master her feelings of shock and betrayal and resolutely sets about the task of planning an escape.  Piper’s true ability comes from her generous and compassionate heart; she has extraordinary empathy for other living beings and is passionate about dreams and ideas.  Coupled with her ability to fly, these gifts endear her to the other students in a way that generates their own determination and faith in themselves.

When the children attempt to free themselves from I.N.S.A.N.E. the unthinkable happens and Piper is devastated to think that she cannot trust her own heart.  Her surrender and her return to the others as a shell of the person she was are the saddest moments in the story.  But the author does not leave us there!!  We see how Piper’s compassion and drive has infused the others with the desire to help her when she can no longer help herself.

This is a wonderful fantasy: children with extraordinary abilities like a group of young X-men woven together with a heartfelt tale of human compassion, self-determination and generosity of spirit.  Full of suspense, danger and exhiliration this is a great read-aloud for 3rd-5th graders and a terrific independent reading choice for almost any age.


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