________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 11 . . . . November 16, 2012


Root Bound. (Emma and the Elementals, Vol. 1).

Tanya Karen Gough.
Stratford, ON: Baba Yaga Press (http://emmaseries.blogspot.com), 2012. 234 pp., trade pbk. & eBook, $19.99 (pbk.), $2.99 (eBook).
ISBN 978-0-987506-0-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-987506-1-4 (eBook).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Libby McKeever.




She sneezed. She sneezed again. Then the house sneezed.

She froze, another monstrous sneeze trapped in her nose. Everything around her seemed to freeze too. Finally, she couldn’t hold it any longer, and she let out the most enormous sneeze she had ever sneezed, and at that exact same moment, the house sneezed too. And before she was able to even wonder what was happening, she heard a sudden clatter, like a bag of marbles rolling down the vent shaft. It clinged, it clanged, it stopped with a hard “thud” and a chorus of very small voiced “oof’s”.

Just then the wind flung the blind so hard it rolled open all by itself. The city lights lit up the room with a weird glow. Emma looked up fearfully at the iron grate covering the air shaft.

Three set of tiny, shiny eyes looked back.

Emma and her dad have moved again, and this time it is to an apartment in an old building in the centre of a new town. It has been difficult for them both after Emma’s mother died and her dad, a jazz musician, is desperately trying to find permanent work that will allow Emma to attend school and makes friends.

      On the very first evening in their new apartment, Emma comes face to face with a horrible old woman who lives down the hall. She not only looks like witch, laughs like a witch but seems to be hiding someone in her apartment. Exhausted by the long drive and moving, Emma goes to bed with her favourite story book of Greek and Roman mythology and is soon woken by odd noises and the distinct feeling that the house is alive. Before long, she is introduced to three Brownies, underworld folk who live below the basement. They’ve been sent to on a mission to bring her down to the underworld where they travel to the Valley of Hades. There, the unlikely band of heroes follows a series of mythological clues and the vision of Emma’s mother to help save their worlds from the witch and certain destruction.

      Root Bound is a fantasy tale steeped in myth and influenced by the stories of Perseus and Medusa and guided by the goddess Ceres. Gough’s Basement Brownies are fun, well drawn characters with their own quirky and interesting traits. When in great need, as when they are being chased by the witch, Emma is able to shrink to Brownie-size and escape through the vent. Eventually, they squeeze through a crack in the basement wall which leads them into the underworld. In assisting the Brownies to help heal their world, Emma is able to eventually come home and relinquish the sadness of her mother’s death that has been hindering both Emma and her dad. Root Bound is also part school story where the constant bullying and teasing by three girls, who resemble the gorgons in Hades, are defeated by a more confident Emma with the support of her head mistress who appears as a stone goblin named Amulet, Emma’s protector in underworld.

      Tanya Karen Gough has created a complicated story that would suit a mature reader. Nevertheless, Gough has wound in amusing scenes with the Brownies and Emma which help to lighten the plot.

      Root Bound is the first of four books in the “Emma and the Elementals” series, and currently the author is writing the second book, Water Works. Tanya Karen Gough established Poor Yorick Shakespeare Catalogue and has contributed to a number of Shakespeare-related publications.


Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.