Elvia and the Gift of Passion
by Ruthy Ballard
WhipSmart Books

"Elvia Hill would have made a tasty snack for a lion, no doubt about it. Fortunately, she hadn’t become one."

When ten-year-old Elvia Hill goes on vacation in Tanzania with her overprotective parents, Earl and Sally, she hatches a plan to run away and find her birth parents after taking a DNA test. She is convinced that there must have been some sort of mix-up when she was born, as there is no way she belongs to her bland, boring parents. Elvia has the gift of "Passion," and she just knows she is meant for adventure. But before she can put her plan into action, she is whisked away by the mysterious purple space-time tunnel and delivered to Urth, a distant world where the lavender-hued citizens have adapted to island life on an oceanic planet. While her grieving parents believe she's been swallowed by a lion, Elvia is very much alive, across the universe, learning what true fear is for the first time in her sheltered life.

Urth is an intriguing setting, a parallel world that celebrates the talents of denizens such as Rats, a mischievous child who is said to have the gift of "Breaking the Rules." Elvia's mentor on Urth, Lacie, considers herself "a color appellation artist" and delightfully renames the color of everything she sees ("It's not purple, my dear. It's 'Blush of Iris.'). The author's playful use of language in the narrative peppers the pages with little linguistic puzzles, challenging the reader to unscramble mixed-up names and phrases. It's both a swashbuckling adventure and a bittersweet story of growing up. Elvia's journey through this imaginative world is a charming coming-of-age tale woven with whimsy and warmth and will hook young and old readers alike.

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