At night she’s been hearing odd sounds in the walls, a scritch, scritch sort of sound. But whenever she turns on the lights to see what’s happening, the sounds stop. Sometimes it seems she can actually hear voices, so when a little door in the wall suddenly opens one night, and a very little person steps out into her room, she’s surprised – but not too surprised.
The tiny little person is Elizabeth, T.J. discovers: a Little. (As in The Littles and The Borrowers). T.J. is sick and tired of hiding in the walls, living afraid, never going out, not knowing anyone her own age, and always having to follow her parents’ long list of rules. She is leaving home, going on an adventure, and she can take care of herself. T.J. is dressed in punkish clothes which she has fashioned for herself, and she has a very big attitude. One of the most important rules is to always hide their existence from big people, and Elizabeth appears pleased to have broken it so successfully.
The novel is told in alternating viewpoints, first from T.J.’s, then from Elizabeth’s point of view. When Elizabeth’s adventure doesn’t go very well and T.J. discovers her living in the garden shed, cold, alone and afraid (not that she’d admit it), the girls team up to find out how Elizabeth can find other Littles – she can’t go back home, because her parents left in a fright after Elizabeth spoke about them to T.J. Their search turns into an adventure that takes both friends far from home, way out of their comfort zones, and teaches them more about the world – and themselves – than they ever imagined possible.
I always enjoy Charles de Lint’s books, and this one is no exception. It does lack the narrative complexity and dramatic intensity of some of my favorites (such as The Blue Girl and The Dreaming Place, two other books for teen readers). That may be because the novel is based on a short story, which appeared in an anthology called Firebirds Rising (edited by Sharyn November). Even so, I find anything Charles de Lint writes is worth reading - I love that feeling I get from his books that the world is a magical place, if we open our eyes and really look at things. My library places this book in the YA section, but I’d say that even younger readers would enjoy it – ten or eleven and up – because of the very tight focus on the characters and straightforward narrative.
Little (Grrl) LOST by Charles de Lint (Viking, 2007)
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