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Author: Anne Ursu

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Publisher: Walden Pond Press, 2011

Material: hard cover

Summary: Meet Hazel, our narrator. She's adopted and lives in Minneapolis. Hazel recently changed schools to Lovelace Elementary because her father left and they can no longer pay for Hazel's old school. She's happy about that, because now she goes to the same school as her best friend Jack.

One day, when Jack and Hazel are playing in the snow, Jack gets something in the eye and has to go to the hospital. The incident changed Jack. He's cold and completely ignores her. When he goes missing, Hazel embarks on a quest to save him. She knows Jack got lost in the forest, but where did he go? The woodland creatures try to warn her about the white witch and other dangers, but she is committed: she must save her friend. But can a fifth grader really beat the Queen of the Forest? This is a fantasy written in two parts. The first is to introduce the characters; the second is the adventure.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, read aloud book, independent reading

Recommended Age: read together: 8 and Up; read yourself: 10 and Up

Interest Level: 9 and Up

Reading Level: 4.8

Age of Child: Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™

Young Reader Reaction: This book is very interesting because it seems like a fairy tale that has parts of other well-known stories. The book has references to The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. People who liked those books would like this. I recommend this book for a young reader to borrow from a library.

Adult Reader Reaction: I was hooked on page 1. Hazel is a very sympathetic yet engaging character — you want to see what she’s thinking. The scenes of fifth grade life are authentic and (for better or worse) will take you back in time. Readers who want action from the get-go may be slow to get hooked. Once Hazel enters the woods, however, it's a race against time and you want to keep going.

Pros: Engaging, realistic characters make this fantasy mystery a page turner.

Cons: Because this is Hazel's story, and because the front part is setting the stage, boys may initially see this as a girl book. It is a book for all readers!

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a read that everyone can enjoy together and is a good pick for mixed ages.


Educational Themes: This is a book for recreational reading.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - fantasy, adventure, mystery

Date(s) Reviewed: February 2012, June 2012

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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