A girl finds herself running through the forest at the edge of a village with no memory of anything, even her own name, and later learns that she might be twelve-year-old Isabelle, believed to be stolen by a witch six years before.
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* "This is a solid fantasy and mystery that builds in intrigue and suspense as more layers are added to the story... Vande Velde weaves a spell around her readers with this well-written tale." -- School Library Journal, November 2008 (starred review)
The idea for Stolen came from an image of a girl I don't know.
Let me back up: I've seen, when I've been asked to lead writing workshops, that it can sometimes be difficult for people to just jump in and make up a character. I've found that one way to get workshop participants started quickly is to provide them with a picture. "Tell me about this person," I'll ask. "What is he afraid of? Tell me a secret about her that even her best friend doesn't know."
For this exercise, I don't want to provide pictures of my friends or family (I'd rather not hear someone say about my grandmother: "I think she looks like a serial killer!"); and I don't use people from magazines (because sometimes it's hard to disconnect an actor from the roles he's played, or a famous person from the events that made her famous). Instead, I use pictures of people nobody is likely to know. Some of my pictures are ones I've bought in antique stores or flea markets, others are from internet sites where "found" pictures are posted. These are pictures that have been left behind when someone moves out of a house, or that have been used as a bookmark in a book sold at a second-hand shop, or that have been picked up by someone collecting trash along the side of a road. There are hundreds of pictures to choose from; but for my workshops I choose faces that I find interesting--faces I believe people could think of as a character with a story to tell.
Stolen started because I found one of those pictures so haunting that I decided I wanted to try my hand at making up a story about her.
The old witch saw that she had gone too far. She had stolen one child too many, and the villagers had come after her.
She had thought there would be more time, time to pack those few things that were valuable to her and leave trouble behind. She had lived long enough that she had done this before.
And had lived long enough that there was no person she would regret leaving behind, no one who would mourn her absence.
But the angry villagers were already outside her cottage, banging on her door, shouting, demanding that she give herself and the baby up. Some of them had brought torches--she could smell the burning pitch--and there was only one reason for that in broad daylight.
Surely they wouldn't set fire to the cottage, the old witch hoped--not with the baby in here.
But sometimes, in a mob, there could be someone with more temper than sense who would act without thinking, too quick for people with calmer heads to point out the grief that would result.
And always, where there's fire involved, there's the possibility of accidents...
You, of course, are free to imagine my characters looking however you like. But this is the face I see for Isabelle:
I also found this picture, which is Ravyn:
Although I've bought old pictures at antique stores and flea markets, one of my favorite places to get pictures to use as story starters was at timetales.com. Unfortunately, the site has since closed down.