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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Leslie Miller’s The Ivory Needle is an allegorical tale for the young and the old. “Africa is a spiritual place, a profound and magical place.” Chessie’s parents’ divorce had rocked everyone’s world. Mom was not herself, sadness filled the household. When Gram’s invitation to visit Africa came, Chessie’s mother insisted that she and her younger brother go for the summer. Chessie did not want to go, but there was no getting out of it. A heavy exhaustion overwhelms her during her flight; before she lands, Chessie experiences unbelievable dreams of Africa. Freaky dreams of elephants. Adventure was reaching out to Chessie whether she liked it or not. Something mystical is calling out to her, and Chessie cannot escape its enchantment.
The Ivory Needle is full of hidden messages and symbolism, creating a plot of mystery and magic. Leslie Miller writes to the heart of the young adult. She taps into their world, revealing the spoken and unspoken concerns of divorce, aging, self-doubt, family loyalty and responsibility. I could not help but compare Eliza from Nickelodeon's “The Wild Thornberrys” to the young heroine penned in this story. The characters grow through the adventure, being forced to see beyond their own self-involved lives as they experience the ancient mystical realm of the elephant kingdom. Honesty and loyalty battle selfishness and greed as the conflict of good versus evil emerges. The narrative flows between the points of views of Chessie, Daniel and the Ayelephs. The triune perspectives are exchanged until the three worlds collide, creating the climactic turning point of the story. Miller builds upon the rising action until the very end. Expect the unexpected in The Ivory Needle.