One day in the woods she encounters an old dog she doesn't recognize who leads her up the mountain, where she has never been (although her father always said that there was a "hag" up there). Instead of a witch, Ellie finds an old lady who needs her help. Helping her, in turn, opens up Ellie's world, revealing a talent for healing, an intuitive sense of how to fix what is broken, and insight to recognize what physical and psychic ailments people carry with them but are reluctant to share.
In this beautifully written novel, Lauren Wolk creates a story of a girl rescuing her neighbor, her family, and ultimately herself. I read so many dystopian novels full of suffering, issue books about people with creepy problems, and message books exposing the hypocrisies of the adult world, that I forget that there are children's books like this: about people living amidst each other, doing normal things, and making their small part of the world a better place. The book comes with lots of adventure, a resourceful and humble-to-a-fault heroine, and a feel-good message about how neighbors can help neighbors. While set in the Great Depression amongst rural poor people without a penny to their name, the story itself is timeless. A deceptively simple story of a girl growing up (just a little) that illustrates the true power of children's literature to entertain and enlighten. Obviously recommended!