By Ekta R. Garg
February 27, 2019
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Release date: April 3, 2018
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A girl made must go on a journey away from the only home she’s ever known if she wants to save herself and her friends. Along the way she’ll encounter new people and creatures and learn the true story of her heritage. Author Sarah Beth Durst offers middle grade readers a sweet story that, unfortunately, drags in places in The Stone Girl’s Story.
Mayka is unlike any other 12-year-old girl in the entire mountain range. At least, she might be. Carved entirely from stone by her loving father’s hands, Mayka has never left the cozy cottage on top of the highest mountain. The magic in her father’s hands allowed Mayka and her stone creature friends to come to life, and Father made sure to carve special symbols into each of his creations so they can share their stories with others.
It’s been quite a while since Father died, however, and Mayka and the creatures have taken care of themselves and one another. They miss Father, but they have all they need to continue living in what they consider to be the most beautiful place in the world. Then Turtle stops moving, and Mayka realizes a terrible fact. If someone doesn’t re-carve the markings that have begun to wear away, all of the stone beings—including her—will cease to move. They’ll still exist, but they won’t live. Worse, no one will know their stories.
She discusses the problem with all of the other creatures, and two of her best friends, the stone birds Risa and Jacklo, decide to accompany Mayka to the valley city of Skye. Father never shared details of his time living in the city, but the friends reason that other stonemasons must live there. Perhaps, if they travel down the mountain and ask with enough kindness and respect, one of the stonemasons will come back to their cottage and re-carve everyone’s marks.
Because they’re made of stone, Mayka, Risa, and Jacklo don’t need to worry about stopping to eat or sleep, but they still run into their fair share of challenges. People in the city don’t always say upfront what they mean, and many of them seem interested in Mayka in a way that makes her uncomfortable. They keep telling her she’s a rarity, that a living girl made of stone hasn’t existed among them in years.
On top of everything else, the entire city has begun preparations for the Stone Festival, a holiday Mayka has never heard of, and many are too busy to talk. She finally meets Garit, the apprentice to a stonemason. When Garit takes Mayka home to his master stonemason, however, Mayka learns a startling truth that just might threaten her and her friends forever. She’ll have to find a way to save Risa, Jacklo, herself, and all the new stone creature friends she’s made if she wants to go home again.
Author Sarah Beth Durst tells her tale in a gentle tone. Not once will readers ever doubt Mayka’s safety. She encounters strange people, yes, and some of them are rude to her or gruff in their response. Despite all that, Mayka seems to travel through the city of Skye—and the entire novel—within a bubble of relative safety.
While some parents might appreciate the sweet tone of the book, readers in the target age group who enjoy adventures of higher stakes might find themselves getting impatient. Mayka doesn’t even meet Garit until almost the halfway mark, and the action takes its time well beyond that to rise to the climax. Durst spends a disproportionate amount of time describing how Mayka descends from the mountain and her first impressions of the city. On the structural level, her approach makes the book a little lopsided. Less tolerant readers might stop reading long before they get to the end.
Still, the book does offer many positives. Mayka’s unshakeable loyalty to her friends and her father’s vision as well as her willingness to help others are timeless lessons. At one point, the book feels reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, a sort of adventure pursued by a group of unusual friends, albeit on a much quieter scale. And Durst does manage to keep a surprise or two tucked away at the end. For those reasons, I recommend readers Borrow The Stone Girl’s Story.