Author: Patricia Reilly Giff

ISBN:  978-0-375-83888-0

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This fantastic new historical novel comes from the incredible mind of a two-time Newbery Honor-winning author.  And, as always, it was a complete and utter joy to read.

 In the 21st century lives Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is a great girl, even though she lives a very solitary existence.  Her mother passed when she was very young and she doesn’t remember much, if anything, about her.  Her father is an artist who tells her one day that he’s headed to Melbourne, Australia to sell his statues and carvings.  Don’t get me wrong, the man isn’t abandoning his child – he’s only trying with all his heart, soul, and talent to find a way to give her a better future.  She’s sent to stay with Libby, her mother’s sister.  Dad feels it would be a good thing for his daughter to get to know her mother’s family.  Elizabeth isn’t happy about any of this.  All she knows about her Aunt Libby is the fact that she’s a boring scientist who works in a dusty laboratory doing experiments with bacteria.

When she arrives at her Aunt Libby’s, awkward is the only adjective to describe both women.  Libby is a lot like Elizabeth; she’s used to complete silence and has never had a child in her house.  What she does offer her is a fantastically cozy bedroom that used to be Elizabeth’s mother’s room.  A huge, comfortable chair sits by a window, and a wonderful quilt embroidered with all different types of houses and cabins is spread out on the bed.  The most intriguing thing in the house, however, is a picture in a silver frame that hangs on the wall downstairs.

Libby sits with Elizabeth and tells her a little bit about the girl in the drawing.  She looks almost just like Elizabeth, and her name was Eliza.  She lived during the Revolutionary War, and everyone called her Zee.  Elizabeth finds herself completely intrigued by the girl in the drawing…

In the 18th century lives Zee.  She’s a wonderful girl who, unfortunately, is more than a bit scatterbrained.  She leaves the gate open on her family’s small farm and ends up losing some of the sheep in the process; she forgets to latch the door of the hen house and the hens scatter to the winds, etc.  But no matter what she does wrong, she is certainly a girl who is loved wholeheartedly by her family.  Her best friend, Ammy, lives on the adjoining farm.  Their families have been close for a long time and Zee is even scheduled to “someday” marry Ammy’s older brother Isaac. 

Soon, a wave of fear, anger and paranoia begin to change the feelings between the two families – not to mention dividing the town against each other.  Certain factions of the town are taking sides with the King of England.  These people of the Loyalist party are determined to wipe out the troublemakers who wish to separate themselves from England; Ammy’s family is part of the Loyalist party.  Zee’s father and brother believe that it’s their land and they are determined to be free, no matter what the cost.

This novel is an incredible story of two girls – related, so closely – living in a different time.  Elizabeth finds a drawing on thee back of Zee’s picture and realizes it’s an old map telling of where poor Zee had to flee once she lost part of her family.  Elizabeth can almost feel the cold, fear, and pain that the incredibly strong Zee had to go through as she marched, alone; trying desperately to find her father and brother.

This is one of those very rare books that come along that are a joy for both young adults and adults.  The story is fast-paced, interesting, and also a great historical lesson about an unforgettable time in American history.  You’ll cry as the author tells of the very first American flag that was ever made by the people who longed to be free.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see this wonderful author bring home her third Newbery Award.  She certainly deserves it.  Enjoy!

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