Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen


Cat Hellisen
4 Stars

Sarah doesn’t remember a time when her family hasn’t randomly moved. Every so often her father, mother, and Sarah pack up their lives and move somewhere else. And they also avoid going to cold places since her mother hates the cold. But one day her mother leaves without her. Sarah is left with her father who begins to forget how to take care of himself and Sarah. After a problem with the washing machine Sarah’s father takes her to live with her grandparents. Only they live in the middle of a forest in a ruined castle. And things aren’t quite what they seem. As Sarah slowly pieces together what magic and curses have taken hold of her family, she must decide what she wants to do about the knowledge that she will find.

This is a good fantasy story about a girl who is thrown into an awful situation (though to be fair she was already in an awful situation…she just didn’t know it right from the start) and still gathers enough pluck to become her own person. And to face a curse that is more horrible than she can imagine. Although the curse is complex and Sarah doesn’t understand it, she is willing to press forward and to do all that she can with each new scrap of information that she is given. Plus, she isn’t dumb enough to assume that everything she is told right to begin with is the whole truth…just partly true. And young kids who know enough about tricky magic, curses, and the way of human nature will understand how there is always layers of meaning in words and truths. Sarah is one of those characters that many youngsters would want to befriend because of her loyalty, her courage, and her determination. And I for one hope we will see more of her in the future.

Book Discussion Questions:
At one point Sarah says “that as people grew older and the more important something was, the easier ti became for them to forget. They had to keep asking as a way to help them remember.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
It seems that nobody in this story ever told Sarah the whole truth. Why do you think that was? How did Sarah respond to what everyone told her?
What makes someone human? Who is “human” in this story? Why?
Why do you suppose that Sarah’s mother left? What would you have done in that situation? Why?
Why did Alan do what he did? Do you agree with his actions?

Henry Holt and Company, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9980-5
FORMAT: Fantasy
AGES: Elementary, Middle School

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