Lucy's mother has been gone for years, and while her father and older sister have quietly adapted to life without her, Lucy is certain that she can find her mom and convince her to come back home. She packs lightly, leaves a note for her sister Sally, and sets out. Meanwhile, her best friend, Wynston is about to go on a journey of his own. This reluctant prince has been told he has to find a princess to marry. Suddenly, he decides to shake off the expectations of his royal father and the crown, and he leaves the castle on his favorite horse, Sprout, on a self-imposed quest to find Lucy instead.
Forget the idea of a mild, meek milkmaid - Snyder's young protagonist is strong, smart, and sure-footed. Lucy remains undeterred, even when the going gets rough. Optimistic and fun-loving, she is apt to break into song at any time, either giving voice to the songs her mother taught her when she was little or spontaneously singing about whatever she's doing or seeing. Though the terrain is tricky, Lucy always manages to find her way. She's also a bit of a Pied Piper, attracting a furry little creature she names Cat (that's really a prairie dog!) and trying to take care of him as well as Rosebud, the cow she brought along from her farm at the last minute.
Laurel Snyder's first novel for young readers, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, or, The Search for a Suitable Princess, is full of promise and levity. Snyder has created a fun story which easily moves back and forth between the adventures of the two leading characters, who meet additional silly characters to help them along the way. Detailed, captioned black-and-white illustrations by Greg Call compliment the story well, as do the foreshadowing chapter titles. (Example: "The Short Cut, the Long Cut, and the Curious Storm.") With wit, adventure, and an ending that will leave readers content and yearning to hug their parents and/or siblings, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains makes for a great read-aloud at home or in the classroom.
One of my favorite lines in the book comes towards the beginning:
Many years passed, because that is what happens, even when something very sad has taken place. It is the nature of years to pass, and the nature of little girls to grow. - Page 9
I leave you with Song of the Mountain, which Lucy's mom used to sing:
Though winter snows may now freeze us,
and spring storms flood our beds,
We're glad to feel the mountain grass
is pillowing our heads.
Though goats may be out close friends,
and life is simple here,
We like it on the mountain,
where the air is sharp and clear.
We have no use for fancy things,
so keep your lace and jeans.
We have no need for company,
just labor for our hands.
And goats to sleep beside us,
and bread to keep us full.
And stars above to guide us,
and blankets made of wool.
We think of you with kindly thoughts,
but seek the simple life.
We choose the mountain over
all the joys of hearth and wife.
We've felt the sun from heaven,
and breathed the mountain air.
And now it seems that city life
is too much life to bear.
I, like Lucy, will break out into song spontaneously. Read my favorite song that Lucy made up off of the top of her head! I posted it for Poetry Friday.