The Marrow of the World by Ruth Nichols
I first read The Marrow of the World a few years after it was published when I was 8, but it is probably best suited to readers in middle school and beyond. This chapter book, by Canadian author Ruth Nichols, received a Canada Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award in 1973 and it came highly recommended from a beloved teacher. The Marrow of the World also contains early illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman and every time I pick the book up to read the story, I am reminded how powerful a combination words and pictures can be.
Hyman’s pen and ink illustrations bring the adventure to life as Philip and his adopted cousin Linda are suddenly pulled into a strange world of sorcery and adventure. Nichols weaves a captivating story, rich in vocabulary that has sadly faded from many YA novels. As the pages turn, the reader is swept along when Linda learns of her true heritage. She is the child of a dreaded sorceress and a captured woodsman, the father of their new friend Herne. Her dying sister Ygerna has drawn them into the land to complete an epic quest for a magical powder, The Marrow of the World, which will extend a witch’s life and powers forever. Ygerna followed in her mother’s footsteps and reveals Linda’s heritage to her, gleefully describing how being a witch carries a death sentence in most of the kingdom. Philip protects his cousin along the way, just as he has always defended her in his own world, even though her growing powers frighten him. Will she become a witch like her sister and be hunted by the King’s men or will they even survive the quest?
Tightly and beautifully written, The Marrow of the World would be well worth hunting down through used book stores or websites. I know that this copy will remain on my bookshelves to be read aloud to grandchildren many, MANY years from now.
Paperback format, 168 pages, published in 1972 by Macmillan Company