Patricia Reilly Giff is one of those children’s authors who has written numerous titles and seems like an old friend. When we were purchasing books at the Scholastic Warehouse sale for our school library birthday book program, I came across “Storyteller”. I wasn’t aware of too many YA titles by Ms. Giff, so I took it home to read. This novel tells the story of two Elizabeths – one who lives now and her ancestor “Zee” who lived during the Revolutionary War. When modern-day Elizabeth goes to stay with her aunt in New York state one summer, she is drawn to an old drawing of the first Elizabeth and becomes focused on learning her story. The two girls’ stories are juxtaposed, and readers move in time from present to past.
I enjoyed reading this novel and finished it in one evening. I did find the harsh realities of war at times disturbing – Zee is badly burned in a fire and her home destroyed and her mother murdered (there is a somewhat sinister passage where the mother is surrounded by a group of men who are destroying their home while she yells at her daughter to run away; later a family friend reports to Zee that her mother is dead). I wasn’t at all familiar with the Battle of Oriskany, which occurs in this novel, too (where a group of Patriots are ambushed and slaughtered while travelling through a gorge). For these reasons, I think this novel is best suited for middle schoolers. Using this in a classroom where you could also study daily life during the Revolution and talk about the events in this book would be ideal.
Historical period aside, young readers will enjoy the two Elizabeths’ stories as both girls learn to deal with changes in their life and recognize their gifts as storytellers. I look forward to more YA titles from Ms. Giff!