Charles de Lint,
Little (Grrl) Lost
(Viking, 2007)

It's not easy for most of us to empathize with a fairy-tale character who's a princess seeking a prince or a fool in search of a kingdom. Most of us have little in common with protagonists who slay dragons, throw dice with wizards or unravel ancient dwarven mysteries to find a fortune.

But what if the story was about a couple of teenagers who'd gone astray and felt disconnected with the world around them? That, I think, is a tale that touches all of us -- even if one of the teens is a few inches short of a foot tall.

In Little (Grrl) Lost, author Charles de Lint revisits the Littles, a race of diminutive people who carry a mystical bloodline in common with birds. But, while de Lint delved into the magical elements of this race in past short fiction, the Little at the heart of this young-adult novel is 16, newly parted from her family and, purely by accident, discovered and befriended by a Big. Bigs, of course, are us, or in this case is a 14-year-old girl also separated from the life and friends she knew when her family moved from the country to the suburbs of Newford, de Lint's unusual and highly developed setting for urban fantasy.

T.J., the Big, and Elizabeth, the Little, are bound together in friendship after an accidental discovery; Elizabeth's family was living secretly in the walls of T.J.'s house, but even a hint of Big awareness sent them scurrying for a safer home. All except Elizabeth, who wanted to strike out on her own but wasn't sure, um, how.

But their efforts to meet an author who has written about Littles in the past go awry, and the girls are separated, beginning their separate adventures to reunite and find the answers they need. There are lessons learned about friendship, first impressions, helping those in need and not being too quick to take assistance from the wrong quarters -- or to overlook it from an unexpected source. Of course, being a de Lint story, there are also gnomes, goblins and other fey beings, not to mention a muttering bag lady who pokes beneath cars with a big stick.

Charles de Lint has a gift for adding a sense of wonder to the mundane. Although written for young adults, Little (Grrl) Lost will also appeal to older readers who enjoy de Lint's Newford tales. Framed by magic and mystery in a thoroughly modern world, the story at its heart is entirely human.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

16 June 2007

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