Almost relentless peril besets two resourceful girls who seek a miracle cure for their ailing newborn sister in Vermont’s mountains.
Maple, 9 1/2, and her older sister Dawn set out in search of the “Wise Woman of the Mountain,” a folkloric formation in the Green Mountains, and “her” curative waters. What ensues is nonstop danger, making for fast reading. This doesn’t add up to necessarily believable reading, however, as the sisters’ adventures, which include encounters with a bear, rapids and poachers, would daunt adults with wilderness experience. While readers will turn pages to discover how all this is resolved and will sympathize with the girls’ motives for the trek, they’ll likely not buy that youngsters of these ages would believe in a magical presence and potion, and the sheer number of dangers strains credulity. Disappointing is the butterfly metaphor: Maple continually notices a monarch that acts as an encouraging totem and spirit guide at various dramatic stages throughout the novel. In the end, this turns out to be an unnecessary motif, because the girls ultimately learn that love and pulling together are really what effect miracles. Maple’s first-person/present-tense, sometimes repetitive narration, which places readers in every hazardous moment, sometimes gets bogged down with inconsistent use of contractions.
A generally realistic portrait of sisterly conflict, and undemanding readers will enjoy the fast-paced action. (Adventure. 9-12)