Skip to main content




Elizabeth lives with her father but doesn’t remember her mother, who died long ago. They get along well enough, but he gets frustrated with Elizabeth, who always has her head in the clouds. When he has to travel to Australia for a few months on business, he decides to leave her with her mother’s sister, an aunt she has never met. Elizabeth feels hurt and angry to be dumped on an outsider, and nervous about living with someone she doesn’t know and attending a new school. But there’s not much she can do about it.

The first few weeks are uncomfortable, but Elizabeth and her aunt are actually a lot alike, and they eventually discover a kinship with each other. She also feels a strong pull to a framed drawing on the wall. It is of an ancestor named Zee, and she and Elizabeth share an uncanny resemblance. Elizabeth and her aunt join forces to dig deep in order to uncover Zee’s story of survival during the Revolutionary War.

Zee lives with her parents and older brother on a farm that they built up from the pristine ground. It’s hard work, but they’re very proud of their farm and generally happy, though the family gets frustrated with Zee, who always has her head in the clouds. She is forever burning the bread or leaving the gate open for the sheep to escape. But there is trouble and unrest brewing in the land. One group of settlers is fiercely loyal to the king of England, while another is determined to gain freedom. Neighbor turns on neighbor, friend on friend, and survival earns a new definition.

The more Elizabeth uncovers about Zee, the more she discovers about herself. Chapters alternate between Elizabeth and Zee, the 21st century and the 18th century, yet a similar journey of discovery crosses the time barriers.

STORYTELLER is full of depth and heart; it’s about discovering and rediscovering family both near and far, finding one’s niche, and attaining self worth. Patricia Reilly Giff cleverly weaves together two stories separated by hundreds of years, yet many ties bond them. She recreates the past with vivid details, capturing their struggles and rewards. Curiosity and empathy for the characters will keep attentions riveted, and may even inspire readers to explore their own ancestors’ mysteries.  This is a heartwarming story that will stay with young people for quite some time.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on August 9, 2011

by Patricia Reilly Giff

  • Publication Date: August 9, 2011
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0440421756
  • ISBN-13: 9780440421757