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The Water and the Wild


The Water and the Wild

written by K. E. Ormsbee with illustrations by Elsa Mora

Twelve-year-old orphan Lottie Fiske would feel all alone on Kemble Isle if not for her best friend, Eliot and the mysterious man who sends gifts via a magic apple tree every year on her birthday. No one else understands Lottie’s bold and imaginative spirit --- not her guardian Mrs. Yates and certainly not the other girls at school. When Eliot is diagnosed with an incurable disease and given just weeks to live, Lottie wishes on the magic tree for a cure, planting the seed for adventure.


What sets THE WATER AND WILD apart is its emphasis on character. 

In the tradition of Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum, THE WATER AND THE WILD follows our naive but resilient heroine’s journey through a fantastical landscape. Lottie travels down the roots of the apple tree and back up again to a world inhabited by sprites. There, Lottie meets her mysterious benefactor, Mr. Wilfer, and his children. Mr. Wilfer is a healer with the power to save Lottie’s friend. But before Lottie can return home with the medicine, she must contend with corrupt politicians, a bloodthirsty beast and other perils. Lottie’s quest for a cure leads to valuable discoveries about herself.


K.E. Ormsbee’s debut has an old-time feel, hitting all the fairytale tropes. What sets THE WATER AND WILD apart is its emphasis on character. The Wilfer children form an especially memorable pair. Whereas Adelaide is forceful and opinionated, Oliver is shy --- more comfortable quoting poetry than speaking his mind. The characters are further differentiated by their keens: sharpened senses that sprites hone over a lifetime. My favorite keen belongs to Oliver’s friend, the sweet-talking Fife, who perceives language and its underlying emotion through his sense of taste. By comparison, Lottie’s strengths and quirks seem a bit underdeveloped.


At first glance, the magical realm of Albion Isle is unfamiliar to both Lottie and the reader. On closer examination, however, Albion parallels our own world where sickness and poverty exist alongside comfort and wealth. After getting a crash course in the nation’s fraught history and politics, Lottie asks, “Does anyone get along in your world?” Adelaide deflects the question: “Do they in yours?”. Unfortunately, even with its insightful allegory, THE WATER AND THE WILD lags before reaching an abrupt and convoluted ending. Those willing to overlook the novel’s narrative shortcomings are in for a wild read.       

Reviewed by Emma Kantor on April 30, 2015

The Water and the Wild
written by K. E. Ormsbee with illustrations by Elsa Mora

  • Publication Date: October 4, 2016
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Health
  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • ISBN-10: 1452128812
  • ISBN-13: 9781452128818