Book Review: The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
Looking for a fun book to read with your children? Try “The Girl Who Could Fly” by Victoria Forester. I was told by my best friend’s 13-year-old niece that Ihad to read this middle grade novel, that I would love it, and that it was awesome.
So when a space in my reading schedule opened up (and when a copy of the in-demand novel finally became available at my local library), I decided to give it a go.
The strong-headed and inventive 11-year-old girl, Piper McCloud, is this story’s central character. She lives in a sleepy, agrarian town in the South, where life is typically nothing more than normal (and when it is, oh, how people will gossip)! Poor Piper’s just not ordinary enough to fit in — she was born with the ability to float in the air — prompting her parents to home school her with the hope of avoiding any embarrassing debacles regarding Piper’s special “talents.”
Finally, Ma and Pa McCloud give their daughter the opportunity to play with the town children at a picnic festival. Piper tries her best to make the children like her. Unfortunately, her best includes using her special powers to catch a highflying runaway baseball — right in front of the whole town, might I add. It’s not long after this ordeal that strangers show up at the McCloud residence, and they want Piper. The family reluctantly agrees, and Piper is whisked away by Dr. Hellion and Agent Agent to a special institute called INSANE, which she is promised will help her to develop her skills and to help other children learn the joys of flying too.
At this boarding school-come-scientific research lab, Piper is manipulated by the faculty, being asked not to use her powers since it could make the other children jealous. Eager to fit in for a change, she agrees. The new children all have unique gifts of their own including the ability to manipulate weather, telekinesis, X-ray vision and shrinkability. Conrad, a crotchety super genius and the unquestioned leader of the students, seems intent on making Piper’s new school experience as horrible as possible.
Will the children figure out that the institute is not trying to help them develop their talents but rather trying to erase them altogether? Will Piper be able to save the day and make new friends along the way, or will she lose her powers and finally become normal like everyone else?
“The Girl Who Could Fly” will teach children tolerance for those who are different at the same time that it espouses caricature-like stereotypes. I was so frustrated with the anachronistic and maudlin portrayal of Piper’s backwoods, Southern hometown that I almost gave up on the story after reading the first two chapters. I was also irritated by the cutesy naming conventions: Agent Agent, Professor Mumbley, INSANE. However, I believe these same features, which were hindrances to my enjoyment, might be of great delight to the child reader. It would be a near impossibility to read the story aloud without affecting Piper’s maple-syrupy accent — and don’t children love it when their parents use funny voices to read a story?
I’m glad I didn’t give up on “The Girl Who Could Fly” despite my initial misgivings. Once Piper arrives at INSANE, the story really takes off. The authoress is a master of description, which makes up for her dialogue-writing difficulties.
This post is dedicated to Connor.