Swirls of green and blue introduce readers to the setting of the story, the enchanted forest of Frygea, with many strange creatures, some terrifying and dangerous, some cute, and all magical. The most terrifying are the Fog Furies, ghostly wraiths of mist who lure young girls into their clutches… or so the book of legends being shared by three sisters says.
Janna is the littlest, a preschooler with unbounded enthusiasm, a constant grin, and an eagerness to be friends with every magical creature she encounters. Kyra is the middle child, a preteen expecting that things will stay the same on this traditional vacation with her grandma and sisters; she’s ready at any moment to scramble up a tree, plunge into the enchanted woods, and bounce on the beds. Margot, getting ready to go to high school in the fall, is caught in between her sisters’ innocent fun and her own feelings of change; one moment she’s climbing trees and bouncing on beds with her sisters, the next she’s testing out makeup and diving into anime romances.
The three sisters start out their vacation squabbling, playing games, discovering magical creatures, and joking and laughing together. But there are hints that Margot is changing and this confuses Kyra – who would want to read a book with kissing in it? Why doesn’t Margot like to do the same things they’ve always done? When the three girls get lost in the forest, chased by the fearsome Hellhound, Margot and Kyra each have their own frightening encounter with the creatures of the forest – but Margot comes back changed. When she gets her period the next day, the two feel even farther apart and Kyra is hurt and confused, feeling left out and left behind by her sister’s new experiences. Eventually, they both return to the forest and Kyra is determined to save Margot – but from what? What do the Fog Furies want with her and who is the real danger?
The metaphor of a young girl growing into a woman is obvious, but it’s presented here in a fresh, comforting, and humorous way. Readers will empathize with the different life stages of all the girls and women presented, from innocent Janna, a plump, curly-headed kid who flings off her shirt with abandon and makes friends with cute root vegetable elves, to their wise and experienced grandmother, who knows just what to do when Margot gets her period and is clearly comfortable with her body, reacting with amusement when the family is bathing together and the girls joke about her large size bra.
Spaalj marks the change from the everyday world of their home to the magic of the forest with abrupt color changes; at first the farm is most often seen in daylight, with bright green grass, sharp blue sky, and friendly, colorful creatures. The forest is another world, dark and misty, covered in swirling fog out of which trolls and strange creatures loom and through which the girls stumble into frightening bogs. There can be magical moments in the forest, and as the story progresses the fog from the forest winds into the house, especially at night, entwining Margot and signaling that she is changing and experiencing something new and magical.
In a school library, with the ongoing increase in challenges, librarians will want to be aware of possible controversial points, depending on their community. Puberty, including breasts and periods, is referred to in a natural way and the girls joke together about “titties” and breast development. It’s a wholesome, positive message for those experiencing puberty and beginning a menstrual cycle, and coming from a smaller, low-profile publisher is unlikely to pop up on the radar of those looking for titles to challenge. In a public library, this will be popular with a wide variety of readers; younger kids can enjoy the magical creatures, fantasy plot of the story, and the experiences of a younger sibling. Tweens will sympathize with the girls who are dealing with different stages and changes in their lives. This would make a great choice for an adult-child book club, emphasizing the inter-generational tone of the book and art lovers of all ages will delight in the vivid colors and charming illustrations.
Sisters of the Mist
By Marlyn Spaaij
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Dutch,