Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
came a week early for me this year when I received this book in the
mail and sat down to read it. Adjectives that best describe
this tale for me would include; beautiful, fun, happy, exciting, and
We begin in a car with a mother and her two children - twins, Camille and Truman. Mom has to work extra hours this Christmas to get some more money into the household. You see, Dad has mysteriously disappeared and Mom is struggling to keep her family together. Mom drops the children off with Grandma, who is going to take care of them for two weeks. Camillle is a young girl who, before Dad disappeared, wore pink, listened to happy music - was a girlie' girl, to say the least. Now, she wears black clothes, no make-up, and spends her time not caring about anything or anyone. She also reads books about deathdefying leaps from cliffs, extreme sports - pretty much any dark and maudlin topic she can get her hands on. Truman is a young man who is allergic to everything, gets carsick, and is so timid and scared of everything he can't even see straight - not even with his coke-bottle sized glasses. These kids are completely tired, yet they are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Grandma is better known as Swelda Cragmeal. She's their father's mother and they haven't seen her since they were infants. Swelda is a tiny woman who wears a blue knit cap made by hands that looked like they had no idea how to knit. She carries a knarled wooden walking stick as if it were a spear, and she has one contact lens that's covered by a shiny black plastic cup. (I tell you all this because Swelda is probably one of the best characters written in middle-grade literature since Charlotte hung from her web talking to Wilbur.) Swelda lives on a golf course and her house looks like its on its last legs; it's falling down around her ears. She welcomes the children into the house and gives them each a gift the first night they're there. They are each gvien a snow globe, which shows some amazing scenes right before their eyes - such as a man lying on the ground with a red stain on his shirt; as well as a strange woman staring out a window, and cats that look like cats but have human hands and feet and hiss their words. These snow globes show scenes to the children from another world (not so far away) called the Breath World - a magical place where the most amazing creatures live. It is the world of imagination, and it is dying. There is an artifact that is kept in this world that allows the Breath World and the "Real" World to co-exist so that all creatures - real and imaginary - can live in perfect harmony. You see, our world cannot live without the Breath World and vice versa. The artifact, however, has been stolen, and only Truman and Camille can solve the puzzle and save the two worlds.
I can't tell you enough about this story. My sister always told me that in order to enjoy a movie or a book it had to have a point. (She's a real pain in this way). I am here to tell you (and her) that this book has so many amazing points that adults and children should learn and understand, that literally everyone on the face of the earth should pick this up and read it. Not only will you learn, but the characters including; a wayward mouse who wants to be on the right side of the war between "Us vs. Them"; an Ogre who is married to a banshee and already knows which side he's on; a bear in a tu-tu who has a contract with his owner at the circus but wishes to keep his pride and not have to ride a bicycle under the big top; the real cow who caused the Chicago fire; real dragon flies - even the Loch Ness Monster told in an unbelievably hysterical way, bring this story to life. There are spiders who are sick of being treated like second-class citizens, and a man who runs the Office of Official Affairs who is evil and twisted and after the King of the Jarkmen who is a real hero and closer to the twins than they could possibly imagine. There is a chapter called "Tasting Tales" where, while someone eats, Swelda speaks - and the food becomes emotions - that is probably the most well-written chapter I've read in a very long time.
I can go on and on because I can tell you that there are three top books of 2009: The Blue Umbrella; The Magician's Elephant; and this, The Ever Breath, which will capture your hearts and imaginations. And I was completely honored to have been given the lucky break of reviewing all three of them. I will leave you with this to chew on: Swelda looks at the children during the tasting tale and says, "It's a waste to go through the world without a good dose of awe and wonderment." No truer words have ever been spoken. And if you're looking for awe and wonderment, run to your bookstore or call up Amazon and buy this immediately. You will have the time of your life.