Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me

51gubUXsmpL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_Ever been in a “tight spot”? Eleven-year-old Kammie Summers is literally in a tight spot when she falls into an abandoned well. As daylight fades, Kammie, her arms pinned against her body, can’t even wipe away her tears. Meanwhile, her three new “friends,” popular girls who got her into this jam as as part of a club initiation, take off. But they’ll be back to get her out.

Won’t they?

Kammie desperately hopes so, and I did, too, as I read The Girl in the Well is Me, the new middle grade novel by Canadian author Karen Rivers. I was mesmerized as Kammie, trapped and alone, revisits both the good and bad things that have happened in her life: her father’s imprisonment for embezzling funds from a charity; an elderly neighbor’s friendship; her mother’s struggles to earn a living; and her own efforts, after the family moves, to fit into a new town and different school. But help is on the way.

Isn’t it?

As her oxygen supply dwindles, Kammie hallucinates about spiders and zombies in the well, while a silvery, French-speaking coyote shows up to keep her company. But rescue is coming.


Rivers’ book reminds me of a one-act stage play. The scenery barely changes, yet the plight and voice and heart of the main character keeps the reader spellbound.

Getting out of the well is Kammie’s biggest problem, of course, but it isn’t her only one. If she survives, she’s got to find a way to go on, not with the life she wishes she had, but the one she’s been given. And no matter what happens with the popular girls and her father or anything else, she’s got to stay true to herself.

I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Kammie, and you won’t be able to, either. Her dilemma is one we all face, at some point in our lives. Once you finally climb out of the darkness, how do you live in the light?

I highly recommend The Girl in the Well is Me, which has been named a Top 10 Spring 2016 Kids’ Indie Next Pick. It’s also earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a copy of this book. My opinions are my own.


Making Quilts, Writing Books


Now I see why so many people get hooked on quilting. It’s all those fantastic fabrics, with their beautiful colors and designs.

Right now, I’m working on a picnic blanket quilt that uses the Bugapalooza fabrics designed by Jennifer Jangles. I may back it with a waterproof material, since this will be used on the ground, or maybe a heavy twill or canvas, as Jennifer (whose real name is Jennier Heynen) suggests. You can find her instructions for making your own picnic blanket here.

After putting words together all day for the middle grade novel I’m writing, Whistling for Elephants, piecing a few cloth squares is a welcome break. My eyes are hungry for colors beyond the black and white of the printed page, and for patterns that aren’t just blocks of text on a computer screen.

But even while I’m quilting, my brain is churning with plot ideas, and I’m trying to think up new descriptions and snappy dialogue to make my characters come alive.

Writing for children isn’t easy. You’ve got to remember what it’s like to play and forget the distractions of being a grown-up. This week, my distractions have included paying for a new car transmission, learning to cook for someone on a very restricted diet, cleaning the house, walking the dogs (who shed so much in the summertime heat, they double my housework), and–well, you get the idea.

A few weeks ago, my agent asked me to write a new outline for my book, to help me double its length and dive deeper into the story, and I’ve just finished it. Now I’m waiting for his comments before I start writing again. This agent has a strong editorial background, and I’m grateful for his guidance.

To be honest, I wish the writing work was done, but there’s more ahead before my manuscript is ready to submit to publishers.

Sometimes I get discouraged, because I’ve worked on this book for so long. In some ways, writing is like making a quilt. You make a block for your quilt; you scribble a paragraph for your book. Next you join the blocks into rows, and the paragraphs into chapters. Eventually, you stand back and look at what you’ve got and decide whether you need to add more here or take away something there.

When you finally see the pattern you’re aiming for, and it pleases your eye and heart, you know your work is finished.