Illustrator: Antonio Javier Caparo
Published by Disney-Hyperion on March 3, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
My content rating: MG (Some violence and themes of loss)
World-renowned musician, environmentalist, and humanitarian Dave Matthews, in collaboration with popular children’s book author Clete Barrett Smith, has conjured an exciting and poignant fantasy about a girl who must confront her past mistakes before she can save her peaceful community from a gigantic threat.
Kirra, a curious, agile, and outgoing girl, lives in an idyllic community hidden inside a dormant volcano. She and her father are the only two people allowed to venture beyond its walls. Kirra is in training to become a Storyteller like him, and together they travel from village to village spreading fearsome tales designed to keep outsiders away from their secret nest. One day, after hearing rumors of strangers called the "Takers," Kirra leaves the volcano by herself, hoping to discover her own story. But she unknowingly leads the Takers back to her doorstep, and they rob her of everything she has ever held dear.
A devastated Kirra is found by a boy named Luwan and adopted into his family, which lives among others high in the trees of a dense forest. Now quiet and withdrawn, Kirra hides her dark past from everyone and never wants to leave the safety of her tree dwelling. Luwan, on the other hand, loves to explore. One day it leads to trouble: He is captured while spying on a group of strangers. The Takers have returned. To save the Tree Folk, Kirra must face her inner demons and summon all her storytelling to weave the most important tale of her life. This compelling novel about overcoming loss, embracing community, and living in harmony with nature is highlighted with a full-color insert of concept artwork, making it perfect for family sharing.
This book is utterly wonderful! When you were a kid, did y0u ever imagine people living up in the trees or in the base of a volcano or some other place tucked away, hidden by nature? I know I did. Well, the authors of this book take that concept of hidden societies and imagine, what if those hidden worlds were in danger?
Kirra’s home has always been safe and peaceful, tucked away in a volcano. Her father’s stories of volcano demons have ensured that no one will find them. Until, one day, someone does. Takers come, and they destroy everything Kirra has ever known. She escapes to a society where everyone lives in the trees, and she blocks out everything from her past life, but nowhere is safe forever.
There is so much to love about this book—setting is incredibly important, and it’s imagined so vividly, it’s easy to imagine yourself right there, living in a volcano or in the very tops of the trees. Kirra is the type of character almost anyone can relate to. She has a sense of adventure and a curiosity to her. But after her world is destroyed she’s quenched all those old instincts. I found myself connecting to Kirra almost instantly, so when her world falls apart, I felt such complete empathy for her. This book is a very fast-paced read. The mystery of the Takers carries the book along during any parts where there isn’t immediate danger, but there’s definitely enough danger and excitement for any middle grade reader. I was pulled through the story, eager to find out what would happen to Kirra and to learn if she would ever find true happiness again after her village is destroyed.
So many moments in this book were magical, but the showdown in the end is spectacularly so! I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone, especially to those of us who love the idea of just a touch of mystery in nature!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Authors
Dave Matthews has chronicled his life’s travels so often that when asked, he can rattle off the details without pause. It goes like this:
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1967. Moves two years later with his family to Westchester County, NY, where his dad, a physicist, goes to work for IBM. Then, in the early `70s, to Cambridge, England, before returning to New York — where his dad died in 1977. The family moved back to South Africa in 1980, where Matthews went to a few different schools and “got more wise about the evils of government, there and in general.” O.K.; pause for a breath.
The key move for Dave Matthews Band fans, of course, was when he relocated in 1986 to Charlottesville, VA, where his parents had lived before he was born. Though he also logged time back in South Africa and in Amsterdam, it was in Charlottesville where Matthews — who took piano lessons as a child before picking up the guitar at age nine — became part of the local music community and hatched the idea for his own band.
“I didn’t really have a vision, or a plan,” says Matthews, acknowledging that some of his musical sensibility came from spending time in so many different places as a child. “I’m sure it gave me a little bit of an openness. The most diverse music in the world is in America, ’cause there’s so many different cultures here, but what tends to be pushed to the top is often a narrow view of what there really is. So maybe (his travels) just gave me a wider pool of listening.”
Matthews says his principal goal with the band was to surround himself with the best players possible. To this day he remains “amazed” that he was able to recruit and retain the four musicians he rather modestly refers to as his superiors. “I was just looking for people that I liked,” explains Matthews, who feels he’s “gotten a bit better” over the years. “Could I play with them was more of the question, I think. We just ended up fitting together. The band wasn’t something that I was looking for; it was very much I loved the people I asked to play with me. There was a connection at the beginning, and I think what we’ve been about is not some grand scheme but more the spirit of everyone, which is why we ended up with this band and why it sounds like it does.”
Dave Matthews photo credit Brantley Gutierrez
Clete Barrett Smith’s first novel for teens, Mr. 60%, will be released by Crown Books in August, 2017. Smith has also written four humorous middle grade adventures: Aliens on Vacation Alien on a Rampage, Aliens in Disguise, and Magic Delivery. Aliens on Vacation was released by Disney-Hyperion Books for Children in May, 2011 and named an American Booksellers Council “New Voices” selection as one of the top middle grade novels of the year by a debut author; and AOV was nominated for state award lists in Texas, Florida, Washington, Pennsylvania and Nebraska. A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Clete Barrett Smith taught English, Drama and Speech at the high school level for over twenty years. Clete received his MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010. He currently lives in Bellingham, Washington with his family.
Three lucky winners will receive a finished copy of IF WE WERE GIANTS, US Only.
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