Individual words, evocative phrases, masterful descriptions, and witty dialogue totally make my day. I fell in love with the sound of spoken words as a preschooler, and as soon as I could read, in a book was where I wanted to be.
My favorite writing captures the flow and rhythm and surprises of life. It provides me with new vocabulary to think not only about objects and people, but also intangible things like belief systems and emotions. Words—and the spaces between them—help me shape and create meaning from life’s experiences . . .
. . . which is a pretty deep way to introduce an adventure story! So let me explain: today’s author is, like me, the kind of reader who absorbs stories in every form and is delighted by the magic of words. How do I know that? It’s obvious by her extraordinary ability to put them on a page.
At only 11 years old, she is already a consummate writer. Words come so easily to her that she plays with them, like a juggler, blithely tossing them over her head for the sheer joy of it. There’s a kind of self-awareness to her characters that often makes me feel like they have a sense of humor about themselves.
Take, for example, the antagonist of the story. He’s self-aware enough to have a nameplate on his desk that reads: Butch Stone, Professor of Evil. When another character asks him, “Who are you?” Mr. Stone replies, “Have you not seen my shiny silver nameplate? I am the most wicked man on the planet!” As he tells his backstory, he explains, “One day, the police told me that because I own the old orphanage building, they need me to run it. I had a wonderful life, torturing kids and scaring them terribly.”
Then there’s the thug who argues and complains that Mr. Stone calls him “Dog.” Or the family who is “weary of risk” but must embark on one more dangerous mission. I laughed out loud when the dead end was described as “actually a DEAD end. There were arrows being shot back and forth and more lava.” And how about this precocious observation: “The door looked like it was made of pure gold. Slowly, the shining door creaked open. Autumn thought it was funny that such an opulent door needed oil.”
These sorts of details, presented as they are, make the reader feel involved in a private joke . . . like the author is saying, “Look here, Reader, I’m going to play around with words and characters and plot, and you’re invited to share in the fun!”
The Heart of Stone is a book-lover’s book. With lots of action, snappy dialogue, interesting and numerous settings, a super-evil bad guy, and a spunky protagonist who is more clever and resourceful than any of the adults in the story, it is an absolutely delightful read.
(Yes—I purposefully used three forms of “delight” when writing this review!)