Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Below

Below

Meg McKinlay
Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Candlewick Press, 2013   ISBN: 978-0763661267

Twelve years ago, on the day she was born, Cassie’s town was drowned. While everyone in town was watching the mayor flipping a lever that would turn Old Lower Grange into a lake, Meg’s mother and father were racing through the streets of New Lower Grange to get to the hospital.

Cassie was born premature and as a result she has problems with her lungs, which “never quite caught up,” and don’t work as well as they should. She has been to the hospital countless times and even now she has to go to the pool every day in the summer to swim six laps so that her lungs will get stronger. Cassie hates going to the pool to do her laps but she goes anyway. Then one day she sees an usually large number of Band-Aids floating in the pool and she decides that enough is enough. No more floating Band-Aids, no more kids making rude remarks about her, no more getting splashed in the face. She is going to start swimming in the lake instead.

Cassie does not want to do her swimming in the designated swimming area. Instead, she goes to a part of the lake that is off limits. She swims and swims, knowing that streets and buildings lie at the bottom of the lake below her.

Cassie has always been fascinated by the story of Old Lower Grange and how it was flooded. This summer there is going to be a centennial celebration for both Old Lower Grange and New Lower Grange. Cassie’s sister Hannah works for the mayor in town hall and she is doing a great deal to help with the arrangements for the anniversary.

Cassie goes back again and again to her secret swimming place, and all goes well until one day when she swims all the way out to the old fire tree, the top of which is sticking up out of the water. As she is swimming back she gets a cramp and she gets into trouble. Just when things are looking very dire indeed, help arrives. A boy from her class, Liam, arrives on a raft and he hauls her on board so that she can rest.

When Liam was just a baby he and his twin brother were traveling in a car with their father when there was a terrible accident. Liam survived, though he was badly injured. His twin did not survive and his father has been emotionally scarred ever since, so much so that he cannot hold down a proper job, and has to be cared for by others.

Though they never makes plan to go out swimming together, Liam and Cassie end up swimming and paddling the raft out to the fire tree again and again. The water level of the lake seems to be falling as the summer progresses, and they use the fire tree to pull themselves down to the drowned town below them. They swim down to a shed and in it there is a little red sports car. The children cannot understand why anyone would leave a car down there. Maybe it was a clunker that was worthless they suggest, and yet the car does not look old enough to be a clunker. Then something bobs up from the downed town, and Cassie starts to ask some questions, never imagining that the secrets hidden by the lake will become life changing for her and Liam.

This wonderful story takes readers into the life of a girl who sometimes struggles to find her place in the world. Not being as strong as the other children in her community, Cassie feels somewhat left out, and she puts a lot of her energies into learning about the drowned town that she never got to know, the town that she cannot help wishing she could claim as her own. In the end her connection with Old Lower Grange exposes the truth about an event that should never have happened.

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