The Folk Keeper: A Middle Grade Book Review

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The Folk Keeper: A middle grade book review from

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley (2001) is a lovely coming-of-age fantasy novel for middle grade readers.  Well-written and interesting, it is the story of  Corinna Stonewall, an orphan girl posturing as a boy in order to be a folk keeper – one who wards off cave gremlins from causing mischief in the countryside.  Being a folk keeper is grim and dangerous work, requiring grit and ingenuity, and Corinna bases her identity on it as it sets her apart both literally and figuratively.  However, a folk keeper is not all she is, and through the novel, Corinna finds the answers to her mysterious past and powers (her stunningly-accurate internal clock, her silvery hair that grows two inches each night, etc.).

There are plenty of plot twists, and this is a great book for students who are learning how to pick up on important, but perhaps not obvious, pieces of information to discover how the whole plot fits together.  The book is written in a beautiful lyric and descriptive prose, something that students don’t encounter as much anymore, so I think this would be a great introduction to that style.

The Folk Keeper would also be a good read for students who are interested in shape-shifting as this novel includes one power that is different from others that I’ve read or heard of – turning into a seal.  It takes from the Celtic mythological stories of the Selkies.  More information on Selkies can be found in Tales of the Seal People: Scottish Folk Tales.  Also, Jane Yolen’s picture book Greyling is about a Selkie boy adopted by a childless fisherman and his wife. (It is out of print now, but that is what libraries are for!)  Reading some other stories would be a great way to deepen students’ understanding of the book and of a less common world mythology.

Corinna, so vengeful and rough throughout the novel, is a fascinating character.  When she discovers who she truly is, she learns to leave her petty anger behind because it stops serving a purpose to her.  She learns to trust others, accept love, and not force herself to be something that she isn’t – her potential is boundless, but it extends in a different direction than she once thought she ought to travel.  Corinna also learns that everything in her life doesn’t need to be black and white – a great lesson for girls who are maturing and beginning to develop different interests than their friends.

I rather enjoyed this book, and I think the lesson Corinna learns about herself is an important one.  However, I must offer a word of warning.  While I am used to the dark overtone that is often present in high fantasy, middle school readers likely are not.  There are descriptive images in The Folk Keeper that could be disturbing to sensitive readers, and I would advise parents, teachers, and librarians to pre-read (or at least read along) if they have any concerns.  I would recommend this book for older middle grade readers.

About Emily Falke

Emily is a wife, a mother, and a former middle school English teacher. She is a graduate of the Teachers Academy Summer Institute program at The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and believes that literature is for everyone. As well as reading and writing, she loves to knit, bake bread, practice yoga, and spend time with her family in the great outdoors. You can find out more about Emily by reading her blog or connecting with her on Pinterest and Instagram.


  1. Hey Emily, I love your post. Did you know the link to your blog isn’t working? I think I would dig your blog – I’m a former English teacher myself.


  1. […] Did any of you catch my first post on The Library Adventure when I reviewed The Folk Keeper?  What did you […]

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