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  • ISBN10: 0595321801
  • ISBN13: 9780595321803
  • Paperback
  • Backinprint.com

The Changeling
by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Reviewed by jessmonster

Rating: 5 out of 5

  • Posted 14 years ago
  • Viewed 1042 times, 0 comments
  • Average user rating: (5/5)

Martha and Ivy

A while back, I was compared to a combination of Martha Abbott and Ivy Carson, which of course made me go grab a copy of The Changeling off the library shelf (autographed: “Greetings from Zilpha Snyder”). I went on a huge Snyder kick, probably in middle school - something about her books appealed hugely to my kind of imagination. And yes, I am a combination of Martha and Ivy. I’ve got Martha’s holding back, and being the one who latches onto a more spontaneous friend. I’ve got a bit of Ivy’s dancing and imagination.

Martha is the youngest child in a family of active and successful people, while she got stuck with the hobby of gardening, which she doesn't really like, thanks to her grandmother. Her teacher calls her sweet, "but an awful daydreamer." She doesn't really have friends or interests, until she meets Ivy, one of the troublesome Carsons who are in and out of town and jail. Ivy defines herself as a changeling, an outsider in her family. The story starts when the girls are seven and continues through Ivy's many appearances and disappearances until the girls are sixteen.

One of the things that struck me most about the whole book (and as far as I remember this is true of all of ZKS’s books) was how well she captures the way children imagine and play and interact with each other. The way certain spots are magic - the grove of trees, the stone - and the way others are frightening but magnetic, like the burnt-out house. An original mythology of each childhood. The way a game changes and evolves from a near-religious belief to a performance, an acting out. The sense of going through phases, and changing without being aware of it at the time, and the way you realize you are different in front of different people. The way there is a spontaneous friend and the one who's more held-back, but the friendship somehow requires the alchemy of those two types to last over the years, on and off.

I also love that Martha becomes herself in high school. She gets most of the pain and angst out of the way in middle school (how true, how true) and settles down to true Martha-ness. I don’t think I was quite so much myself in high school (not to the degree that I am now, but I suppose that’s only natural) but 9th grade certainly was a big sigh of relief after middle school.

Depending more on character than plot, this story belongs to girls who live off their imaginations.

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