The Lost Girl
Spring 2019 Kids Indie Next List
— Lillian Tschudi-Campbell, Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, MN
View the List
Three starred reviews
A Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of 2019
Anne Ursu, author of the National Book Award nominee The Real Boy, returns with a story of the power of fantasy, the limits of love, and the struggles inherent in growing up.
When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark.
Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.
When fifth grade arrives, however, it's decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both.
Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace.
As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.
Praise For The Lost Girl…
— New York Times Book Review
★“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories. It is a layered, mysterious tale that will speak to many.”
— ALA Booklist (starred review)
★“As intriguing as it is eerie… This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
★”The sense of adventure and mystery make this appealing to a wide audience. A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)
“Ursu unleashes a sharp, timely, age-appropriate critique of the myriad ways in which patriarchal culture devalues female agency, especially that of young girls. The novel finely balances the importance of self-reliance with the power of collective action.”
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Ursu’s fans will find much to love.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A magical story of sisterly love and loss and friendship.”
— Tulsa Book Review
Walden Pond Press, 9780062275097, 368pp.
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
About the Author
Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, which Kirkus Reviews called a "transforming testament to the power of friendship" in a starred review, and was acclaimed as one of the best books of 2011 by The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Amazon.com, and the Chicago Public Library. It was also on the IndieBound Next List and was an NPR Backseat Book Club featured selection. She was also the recipient of the 2013 McKnight Fellowship Award in Children's Literature. Anne teaches at Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Minneapolis with her son and four cats—monster fighters, all.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. “The girls were identical, but not the same.” (p. 1) As you read, track the characteristics of Iris and Lark. In what ways are the girls the same? What are the traits and qualities that make them different from one another? How do the girls’ differences make them compatible as a pair?
2. Who is the narrator of this story, and what is the narrator’s point of view? How would this story be different if it were told in first person, or from the point of view of one twin or the other? From another character’s point of view?
3. When Iris and Lark receive their letters with their 5th grade class assignments (pp. 19-24), they are shocked to discover they are in different classes for the first time. Not only that: this decision was made without their knowledge or consent. In the girls’ conversation with their parents, Iris asserts that her parents should have involved them in the decision. Are the twins more upset with the decision for them to be in separate classrooms or that the adults made this decision without them?
4. In what ways have Lark’s medical conditions (complications from her premature birth, pp. 25-27; hospitalized with meningitis, pp. 157-160) impacted the girls’ relationship?
5. Chapter Seven, “Report Cards,” (pp. 49-51) presents a history of observations of Lark and Iris made by previous teachers. What do those observations say about how each girl is doing on her own? In what ways is it in the girls’ best interest to be in different classes for fifth grade? In what ways might it have been in their best interest to be in the same classroom?
6. Consider the theme of something being lost as it relates to this book (lost objects, lost artwork) and its title (The Lost Girl). What is the relationship between something being lost and something going missing? Between something being lost and being stolen?
7. What do crows symbolize in this story? In what ways are they a good fit for this story, its characters, plot, and genre?
8. What is Iris’s greatest struggle in the transition to separate classrooms and separate activities? What does she discover about herself when she begins to attend Camp Awesome as an individual?
9. The term “monster” (or a variation) is used repeatedly throughout the story as a metaphor. While the girls’ play and conversations make it clear they are describing imaginary monsters, in what ways are the metaphors real to them?
10. “My girl. I love how you take care of your sister. You are so brave and loving. But don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.” (p. 199) What message is Mom trying to deliver to Iris? In what ways has Iris lost sight of herself?
11. Why is the title The Lost Girl so fitting for this book? In what ways does the title refer to either Lark or Iris? Try to make a case for each of the twins. Could the title be referring to girls in general? How or why? Collect and compare evidence to support your opinion
12. In what ways does Iris see parallels between her sister Lark and Mr. George Green’s sister Alice? (pp. 216-220)
13. How does Iris change as she makes more visits to Treasure Hunters? Why does she share less and less of herself and her experiences with Lark?
14. Among the other things Alice scrawled in the pages of the book Iris found at Treasure Hunters is the statement: “Magic has a cost.” (p. 226) What does this mean? What are some instances or examples of characters paying a high price for magic in other stories?
15. Abigail teaches the Camp Awesome girls that it is okay for girls to be loud, and even to stomp. (p. 234-235) Think of people you know who set awesome examples and/or who are leaders. Are they “stompers?” Do you have to be a stomper to make noise or be heard? Are you a stomper? Without Lark, Iris does not think she can be a stomper. “If Lark had been there, Iris would have had no trouble stomping; she could have made enough noise for her and Lark both.” (p. 235) In what ways is it easier to stomp and make noise when you have others to stomp with?
16. What happens between Lark and Iris over Lark’s astronomy project? (pp. 250-262) Does Iris handle the situation well? What could she have done differently? Why do her choices upset Lark?
17. What is important about the girls’ conversation about fairy tales at Camp Awesome? What does Iris realize that changes her perspective? (pp. 275-282)
18. Iris discovers Mr. Green’s manor is full of unique and prized possessions. Why has Mr. Green collected all these things? Explore the idea that having desirable possessions gives one a feeling of power. Does Mr. Green perceive himself as powerful? Why or why not?
19. To what extent are Mr. Green’s motives to help Iris good-natured? To what extent are they self-serving? How and why does Mr. Green play to Iris’s vulnerabilities?
20. How has our understanding of the story been shaped by the narrator’s presentation of Iris’s side of the story? What parts of the story do you think Lark would portray in a similar way? What parts would be different told from Lark’s side of the story?
21. Who is Alice, and what is her role in the story?