In his new novel for younger readers, World Fantasy Award-winning author Charles de Lint creates an engaging contemporary story that blends fairy lore, literary allusion, and urban realism. The novel looks at the unlikely friendship between TJ, a 14-year-old girl whose family has moved to the city, and Elizabeth, a six-inch-tall 16-year-old “Little” who has decided to strike out on her own in the world of the “Bigs.” The friendship challenges both the unhappy TJ and the rebellious Elizabeth to take a few hard looks at themselves and their aspirations.
Both girls learn how deceptive appearances can be, and how sometimes the person most worthy of trust is the one you’d least expect – important lessons, especially since TJ and Elizabeth have moved into worlds larger, and more dangerous, than the ones they’ve always known. In certain respects, this is what’s called a “problem novel” – but the problems range from dealing with bullies to deciding whether to be transformed into a bird. In typical de Lint style, these conflicts are all solved with wit.
De Lint peppers the novel with allusions to such literary precursors as Jonathan Swift, Mary Norton, and T.H. White, and offers a lovely, extended nod to Christina Rossetti. Such acknowledgement isn’t merely homage. De Lint is situating this story in its own tradition. And one way that TJ and Elizabeth learn about the Littles’ history and traditions is by consulting books – especially those of fictional author Sheri Piper, whose picture books hold the key to the mystery of the Littles and a possible temptation for Elizabeth.
This smart, funny book will win fans for de Lint and for stories of the little people who live alongside us.