Childhood can easily be defined by pain and tragedy. In face of such reality, Peggy McAloon‘s novel Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals, part of her Lessons from the Fiori, seeks to inspire children to work toward a better future, even if their own worlds’ light has diminished.
Elle Burton is the young, ten-year-old protagonist of her novel, the first in the series. Just as we meet Elle, she finds out she is a guide, someone who can see mystical beings called the Fiori. The Fiori are guardian angel-like creatures helping kids (who might see them as imaginary friends). The Fiori help guides to protect the children of Earth from danger.
As her mother gives birth to her brother, JJ, Elle finds out about her father’s death while he was in Afghanistan on tour with the military. Her sadness is cushioned by her new Fiori friends – Eunie Mae, Nextra (who knew her from her childhood imagination), Mother Blue, and the protector of Fiori, the land where they live, Amadeus – and the various tasks each of them ask her to help with.
The story is one a MG/YA audience will appreciate, with smaller plot arcs, each facing different forms of Evil that the Zorin, the enemy of the Fioris, take, including a child-abusing father, a swindler from a financial scam, and a kidnapper, who ends up taking Elle’s baby brother JJ.
1. Amadeus. The character’s name means “The love of God,” and it shows often how much he loves what is good and the people that Elle gets to protect, even as much as he loves her.
2. Childhood trauma without the scarring. Too often people forget how resilient and how fragile children really are. This book had a good mix of good and bad, and danger and strength, and that’s more than admirable.
3. Concern for widows and orphans, and the “undesirables” and those neglected from society. Elle’s character more than once stands up for people who are lost, helpless, and outcasted from society, whether it is from a secret (such as Olivia’s abusive father) or by their physical traits (see in A’isha’s plumpneed.) Additionally, Elle’s care for her mother and brother, as well as Miss Irma and other windows in her Wisconsin home, show what the Book of James would call “true religion.”
4. A mixed-feelings cliffhanger. Elle seems like a likable, realistic protagonist. So the cliffhanger ending helps to build suspense to get to the next book in the series, Missing. Personally, I hate cliffhangers, but since the book is available for buying, it’s nice to see that Elle’s story will continue and we will get to read more about the Fiori and their battle against the Zorin and Evil.
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