Windswept by Margi Preus

Windswept is a lovely fantasy/fairy tale of children learning to take on the responsibility of stewardship through story, service, and sacrifice.

Windswept by Margi Preus. Abrams, 2022, 280 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 7-12 as a read-aloud, 9-14 for independent readers

The beauty and danger Outside

Tagalong’s actual name is Hyacinth, but her nickname suits her place in the family: the youngest, whose identity trails along behind her four older sisters. Tag, now thirteen, was only six when those sisters were windswept, or literally blown away by one of those sudden blizzardy gales that take youngers to places unknown. Youngers—that is, children—are now forbidden to go Outside. Some still do, but not Tag, whose father lost a fortune and his life trying to get her sisters back, and her mother whose black dresses are tightly corseted to keep her heart from breaking. Still, Outside calls to Tag, and one fateful day she answers the call, letting herself down from the attic window with a blue ribbon and a book of forbidden fairy tales.

There are other youngers living in the Outside! They are “misguised” as Olders, but Tag recognizes her peers. They share the loss of windswept siblings, and may be orphans as well. Finn, their leader, intends to head for the unknown to look for the lost, and there’s an opening for Tag, if she is brave enough to join them. But too soon Finn is swept away. Is Tag brave enough to take the lead?

What makes a true story true?

The journey into the unknown will pose unique challenges to all the children, requiring their unique gifts. Tag doesn’t think she has a gift but emerges as the teller of stories. Recall the fairy-tale book, which suffered an accident during her escape from the house. Two large holes left by a rake leave gaps in the stories that Tag can fill in, adapting to their need at the time. Can she say the story is still “true”? “Stories . . . are about real things like love, fear, courage, loss, and all the best and worst of human nature.” Her chief adversaries, the trolls of the distant hills, prefer to make up their own reality, but “Something is either true or it isn’t, no matter how many people believe it.”

The story is beautifully told, with startling word images, quirky humor, and winning characters. Tag occupies a world where adults have surrendered their caretaking responsibilities to children, who must bear the brunt of their mistakes and grope their way toward solutions. Readers can draw their own real-world consequences, but the novel settles on an environmental message that pokes a somewhat jarring, contemporary note into a dreamy and timeless tale. Still, it’s a lovely read or read-aloud for a winter’s day, and the illustrations add just the right note of realistic fantasy.

Consideration:

  • One very young and winsome character is represented as genderless. I don’t know what purpose this serves, but at least the author avoids the jarring pronoun “they,” so it’s hardly noticeable.

Overall Rating: 4.5

  • Worldview/moral value: 4
  • Artistic/literary value: 5

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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1 Comments

  1. Meredith on January 31, 2023 at 7:07 am

    I loved this book! The author was so clever in how she wove fairy tales, folk songs and items from the past into a futuristic setting, showing how these things are timeless. My favorite child, (besides Tag), was Ant, but they were all excellent.

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