Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Lost Girl, by Anne Ursu

Identical twins Iris and Lark may look alike but they couldn't be any more different from each other.  Iris is the sensible and analytical one.  Always on time and on top of things, the other kids think she is bossy and a know-it-all (even if she does know everything). It is those talents that help Iris take care of Lark.  For where Iris is organized, Lark is distracted and scattered.  Yet she is the artistic one, creating beauty and dreaming up some many clever stories and situations.

All the way until now, the two girls have been inseparable and united.  But now in fifth grade, the school decides that Iris and Lark should be in separate classes and the twins are horrified at what will happen!  Lark fears that the kids will make fun of her.  Iris worries that if she isn't in the room, she won't be able to protect her sister.

Meanwhile, in the storefront that never seems to manage to keep a business for more than a few months, an inauspicious antique store has opened up.  The mysterious owner of the shop, Mr. Green, posts odd signs out front ("We Are Here" and "Alice Where Are You?").  And while most people avoid the place, Iris finds it fascinating and starts spending time there.  Doing so helps her escape her worries about Lark and is the perfect antidote to the horrible after school program (called "Awesome Girls!") that her mom has enrolled her in.

The story, which seems to owe a debt to Lark more than Iris meanders through many different topics (in addition to those mentioned above, a subplot involving the theft of many valuable objects and another about crows gathering in the neighborhood feature prominently).  Many of these threads are tied together in the end, but it is a bit of a strain.  The book lacks much foreshadowing or continuity, leaving the reader perplexed for most of the story about where all of this is actually going.  I enjoyed the dynamic between the twins and the themes about sisterhood are the most interesting, but Ursu wants to take the story in many other directions and that did not work for me.

The book features numerous drawings by Erin Mcguire, one of my favorite children's artists.

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