By Awnali Mills
Wren Baker is afraid of everything. And her fears are perfectly sensible. Horses have big teeth—avoid them. Planes fall out of the sky—avoid them. Fast drivers are dangerous—avoid them. You get the picture. Wren is barely keeping it together when her world falls apart. Her mother is ill, and her father needs to stay with her, so Wren and her brother Russell (who has Asperger’s Syndrome) must go stay with Aunt Marianne.
This is so not cool.
Aunt Marianne has just moved back to town, so Wren and Russell hardly know her. And even worse, Wren’s cousin Silver is the most popular girl in school and hardly speaks to her. The last thing Wren needs is to have all her family’s secrets exposed to the ridicule of the popular kids. It doesn’t help matters that Silver is crazy. She actually let a wasp land on her hand instead of freaking out like all the sensible people were doing. Who does that?
Things get exponentially worse when Wren realizes that Silver’s home backs up to Creeper Mountain where Witch Weatherly lives. And Silver has every intention of going up the mountain to interview the witch for their history project. Will Wren be able to survive the stress of helping her brother cope, of having only one pair of underwear, and having a witch living right on top of her? She’s pretty sure the answer is “no.”
The World from Up Here was a good book for teaching kids about coping with fear and stress. Many of Wren’s fears are products of what she believes, not what she has experienced, and Silver helps her to differentiate between the two. The book also deals in a matter of fact way with depression and Asperger’s Syndrome. Silver is such a wise soul that she stretched the limits of my credulity a few times, but her fearlessness is a good foil for Wren’s fearfulness. Still, I would have liked to see her suffer a few more doubts and insecurities. I also would have liked a better explanation of Wren’s mother’s depression, something kid friendly, but more than the jump between “What’s wrong with Mama” to “She’s depressed, but she’s better now.” I did think that Galante did a good job of dealing with Russell’s Asperger’s, and Wren is a really good big sister who employs good coping mechanisms.
Put this book into the hands of kids who are fearful, coping with the depression or illness of a parent, or who are learning empathy for Asperger’s Syndrome people and the people who love them.