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The Steps Across the Water    by Adam Gopnik & Bruce McCall order for
Steps Across the Water
by Adam Gopnik
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Adopted as a toddler from a Russian orphanage, ten-year-old Rose lives in New York with her parents and elder brother Oliver. One day in Central Park, Rose sees a crystal staircase arching over the lake - two small figures look carefully at her before they skip over the steps. But her father and brother see nothing.

Rose has a mild speech impediment that makes her say U Nork instead of New York. Despite loving her family, she's also lonely, and badly wants a dog. She continues to see strange things, like a pink limousine and midgets, who offer her a dog if she meets them at twilight. When she does - and the steps appear once more - Rose crosses to a different city, U Nork. Zeppelins and dirigibles fill the sky and the skyscrapers stretch into the clouds. Everything is vertical - even diners in restaurants are stacked one on top of another. And a giant banner on high is a forty-foot-high painting of Rose!

Rose is taken to meet the mayor, who explains that the inhabitants of U Nork have moved to their current location in flight from the Ice Queen, who's after their city foundation, the 'biggest diamond in the universe.' They believe that Rose can stop her - but Rose has no idea where to start. She returns home with a tiny puppy she calls Spot (who lives on diamond dust) in her coat pocket. Research leads her to a creepy dollhouse prison. She's chased by the pink limo, by wild dogs, and by mean girls. She enlists Oliver in her cause, and they end up in dangerous Sin-Trail Park.

When Rose is captured by the enemy, she forms a desperate plan and drops Spot to save the day. Her plan succeeds, and she meets her birth mother and grandfather in the process. Rose concludes that 'Big is big and small is small, but in my opinion, you're really only as big as the last brave thing you've done.' The Steps Across the Water (enhanced by Bruce McCall's glorious illustrations) is an impressive feat of imagination that young readers will appreciate, with a strong vein of satire that their elders (especially New Yorkers) will also enjoy.

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