The Twistrose Key by Norwegian first-time novelist, Tone Almhjell, has plenty of ingredients to capture a middle-grade child's imagination: talking pets, a magical world tucked away in the basement, and a boy made of ice who keeps his soul in a snow globe. It's a relief to discover that Lin, unlike most fantasy-novel heroines, still has both her parents - and they seem particularly wise and sensitive.
Lin's mother named her 'Lindelin' after a heroine in an old folk song, and has taught her how to interpret the multiple meanings in folklore ("gold doesn't always mean gold."). Lin's father encourages her to sharpen her intellect with riddles and quizzes, challenging her to "bring your brain to the party." These are skills that come in handy for a heroine. Long after the parents have faded out of the action, their words continue to guide her in tough situations.
At the beginning, Lin...
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