Tuesday, November 9, 2010

STORYTELLER by Patricia Reilly Giff

When Elizabeth's father tells her he will be traveling to Australia to sell his wood carvings, she thinks it means she'll have to stay with Mrs. Eldridge and endure her overweight bulldog and his bad breath.  She's in for a surprise.  Father says Elizabeth will be staying with her Aunt Libby, her mother's sister.

Staying with Libby means living with someone she doesn't even know and going to a new school where she doesn't have any friends.  All Father says is it is time Elizabeth learned about her mother's side of the family.

Libby makes Elizabeth feel as welcome as possible.  The house is awfully quiet and her aunt's cooking is horrible, but when Libby shows Elizabeth to the room she'll be using while she visits, everything feels a bit better.  The room belonged to Elizabeth's mother when she was a girl.  There's a handmade quilt on the bed and a cozy chair by the window perfect for snuggling up in with a good book. 

It doesn't take long for Elizabeth to discover the faded sketch of a young girl hanging in the hall.  It is amazing how much the girl resembles her.  Libby tells Elizabeth that the girl's name was Eliza "Zee", and she lived during the Revolutionary War.  Elizabeth is filled with questions about this mysterious girl from the past, and what follows is a fascinating journey into her family history.

Author Patricia Reilly Giff tells the stories of modern-day Elizabeth and 18th century Zee through alternating chapters.  Elizabeth learns not only about the mother she lost years ago, but also about her family's place in history.  Readers also hear Zee's story as she fights for survival during a time of war that separated families and tore apart lives.  Giff's gift for writing historical fiction is put to excellent use in STORYTELLER as she bridges from past to present to connect the story of two young girls.

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