This novel is a story about two young sisters who are named Summer and Bird. One day their parents disappear, and their mother leaves behind a letter written in pictures. Summer and Bird interpret the pictures as a message to mean that they should follow quickly after her, and so they set out into the wilderness alone. Summer is the elder of the sisters, and tries to be the practical and responsible one, bringing along food and matches for their journey. Bird, though younger, has a better sense of where to go in the forest because of her unique connection to nature and her ability to understand bird song. Soon Bird leads them to a portal to another world - a path that goes "Down." From this point on in the book the story is very much like old fables and fairy tales in that it has magical creatures, fantastical events, and quests full of danger. An evil woman has found her way to this world and is trying to steal the throne away from the bird queen. Summer and Bird must use their knowledge of birdsong and keep their wits about them as not all of the birds are trustworthy. There is a lot of symbolism in the story and the girls have to learn many times that everything that they encounter can have different meanings (maps, songs, eggs, stories, etc.) It is a magical tale that I think will appeal to those who appreciate the whimsical. Sometimes the story seems to meander a little bit, and there were a couple of times where I was mystified as to what was going on, but it did all make sense in the end. I thought that the story was charming on the whole, and it reminded me strongly of fables that I read as a child. Although the ending was not one of perfect happiness, it did make sense logically for all of the characters. I might have wished for a more warm-fuzzy ending, but that would not have been true to the nature of the story and characters. Instead it was a mostly-happy ending with a touch of melancholy and the promise that the characters would continue to grow in goodness in the future. The story is appropriate for children, and I am considering reading it to my sons (once we finish with the Rick Riordan books). It will be a different type of book for them, a little bit slower and a lot more symbolism and layered themes to dig through, but at its heart it really is a children's fable.