Lizzie and Minka are sisters, but they’re nothing alike: Minka is outgoing and cheerful, while Lizzie is shy and sensitive. Nothing much ever happens in their sleepy village—there are fields to tend, clothes to mend, and weekly trips to the market, predictable as the turning of the seasons. Lizzie likes it that way. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. She hopes nothing will ever change.
But one day, Minka meets a boy. A boy who gives her a plum to eat.
He is charming. He is handsome. He tells her that she’s special. He tells her no one understands her like he does—not her parents, not her friends, not even Lizzie. He tells her she should come away with him, into the darkness, into the forest. . . .
Minka has been bewitched and ensnared by a zdusze—a goblin. His plum was poison, his words are poison, and strange things begin to happen. Trees bleed, winds howl, a terrible sickness descends on Minka, and deep in the woods, in a place beyond sunshine, beyond reality, a wedding table has been laid. . . .
To save her sister, Lizzie will have to find courage she never knew she had—courage to confront the impossible—and enter into a world of dreams, danger, and death.
Rich world-building inspired by both Polish folklore and the poetry of Christina Rossetti combines with a tender sister story in this thrilling novel from Diane Zahler.
"Lush. . . Dreamy. . . Breath-quickening."—The Horn Book "Resonates with emotion."—BCCB "Believably wrought."—Publishers Weekly "Will entice readers looking for some chills."—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Diane Zahler is the author of many books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction, including THE THIRTEENTH PRINCESS, PRINCESS OF THE WILD SWANS, and DAUGHTER OF THE WHITE ROSE. Her books have been Junior Library Guild Selections, Golden Sower Award Nominees, and Bank Street Best Books of the Year. A full-time writer, she lives in New York with her husband.
★ "Zahler’s immersive folktale narrative has just the right amount of spookiness and suspense for middle grade readers. Lizzie is a heroine whom readers will root for, and her sisterly bond with Minka is refreshing. Kids will want to enjoy this in one sitting."—School Library Journal, Starred Review
"[A] folklore-based fantasy . . . rooted in the bond between sisters. . . . Elements of horror build to an extended climax teeming with fiends. . . ."—Publishers Weekly
"This broadly appealing, straightforward story reads like a folktale with its spooky, fantasy elements and uncomplicated, yet satisfying, good-overcomes-evil plot. . . . Sisterly love triumphs in this endearing, somewhat spooky tale."—Kirkus Reviews
"The well-rounded and appealing characters in this absorbing tale nicely ground the fantasy elements."—Booklist
★ "Diane Zahler (Baker's Magic) spins a terrifically timeless upper-middle-grade story of sisterly love, goblin magic and overstepped boundaries. . . . [Her] lush language describes a fully realized fairy tale world. . . . Share this book with anyone who loves their stories located in far-off lands potentially inhabited by monsters."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review "Zahler creates a historical-feeling world. . . . The sisters' relationship anchors the plot and resonates with emotion. . . ."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This warmly reassuring tale, with its nontraditional protagonist, will keep readers engrossed from beginning to end."—The Horn Book