“Winkle and Aster” by Derek Corsaro

“Winkle and Aster” by Derek Corsaro 663 1024 Reader Views Kids

Winkle and Aster

Derek Corsaro
SleepKingdom Press (2023)
ISBN: 978-0999687727
Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure for Reader Views (01/2024)

On one particularly boring day that 14-year-old Winkle Dalisey does not take much interest in, a fire occurs in a hiding space where she and her 9-year-old sister, Aster, are drawing pictures. Somehow, in their rush to get away from the fire, they awaken into a world that doesn’t really look much like their own. In fact, they soon learn that they are in a world called the Ember Lands, and with the help of a creature called an alakdan named Hooyip, the sisters set out on an adventure to find their way back home.

“Winkle and Aster” by Derek Corsaro was so engaging and beautifully written. I was hooked from the first page! It is full of fantasy, adventure, excitement, terror, hope, but most of all, the enduring bond between sisters. It is truly beautifully composed with words that swept me away into the fantasy world the sisters were trapped in. Even when they faced scary creatures such as The Not, the lyrical writing offered a satisfying journey to proceed through this story, knowing that things would turn out okay in the end.

Aster is so precocious in this story, as many 9-year-old children are, and her speech impediment often acts as a barrier in her attempts to communicate with others. Still, she does not allow this to stifle her free spirit. She is such a cute character, making up silly words and doing a “running in place” act to corral her energy before she tackles something. Yes, sometimes she can be aggravating with her constant stream of talking and asking questions, but she is such a delight in this story.

Winkle is a good big sister to Aster, often acting as protector and mother hen. She does occasionally tire of Aster’s nonstop chatter and questions, but they do always make up. I love how she acts around Aster, sometimes adopting her young sister’s childish wonder and behavior in order to get her point across or to encourage her to work with her in cooperating. And she turns out to be such a strong and brave character. She goes from relying on others for guidance to trusting her own intuition and making her own choices. I love how she still does what is right even when faced with an enemy, and her character shines through in the many conflicts she faces.

In their journey to find their way home, they encounter many creatures. They also encounter humans, much to Winkle’s surprise. There are many occasions in their meetings with others in which the sisters are encouraged to stay instead of going home. And these moments leave Winkle in thought. She does like the potential of what staying could bring, but she misses her home and mother. On the other hand, she keeps wondering, what does she really have to go back to? I mean, besides her mother. As I read these instances in the story, I kept thinking that Winkle is only fourteen. Life isn’t so great when you’re fourteen! And it may seem like there’s not much of a future to look forward to, but life has a way of changing and your environment can change, too. I was glad she put Aster’s feelings and needs ahead of her own when making the decision to stay or not, but I felt she could have tried having a bit more faith in her own future.

This is not just a story of two girls trapped in a fantasy world but more of a testament to the enduring bond between sisters. When faced with the possibility of losing Aster (a scene that had me in tears!) Winkle realizes that she cannot live without her sibling. She remembers how she held out hope for Aster’s survival shortly after her sister was born, and these memories propel her to once again fight to keep Aster alive. Aster is such a huge part of her life. Not only do the two of them make a great team as they face the many challenges in the Ember Lands – childlike innocence and creativity coupled with mature insights and experiences—but they act as a shining example of what the many residents of the Ember Lands can learn from them. They bring with them their own ways and beliefs from living on Earth, and while it may be confusing to those native to this world, they provide thoughtful and teachable moments.

“Winkle and Aster” is a beautiful story of two sisters struggling to survive in a strange world while also holding out hope of returning home. As they adjust to living conditions that they know are only temporary, they cling to each other and look out for each other much as they must do back home in their world. A lasting tribute to sisterhood and the bond of family, Derek Corsaro’s “Winkle and Aster” is a teen/YA novel that readers of fantasy and adventure will surely enjoy. A novel that is hard to put down, it is sure to last the test of time.

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