Changeling is a fairy tale, hewing to the ancient conventions of the fairy story even as it conducts an erudite, engrossing lesson on the world's mythologies and narrative conventions. The likable, mischievous Neef is disobedient, and ends up in the hottest of water, which she escapes through her cleverness and her exhaustive knowledge of folklore (Delia Sherman is herself an accomplished folklorist).
There's so much to love about this book -- Sherman's incorporation of the contemporary with the timeless is both seamless and endlessly amusing (Neef draws on her knowledge of such stories as "Little Red Baseball Cap" and "The Twelve Dancing Debutantes" and "Jack and the Extension Ladder"). You have to see the fairy version of the Metropolitan Museum for yourself -- and the Dragon of Wall Street!
Part of the power of fairy tales is their ability to transform our own world into a place of everyday magic. Some of that power is lost when we tell the stories of our middle-ages forebears, set in the world they inhabited. If the kids in your life are hooked on fairy tales but sticking to Bros Grimm and co, they're missing something -- the galvanizing wonder of the familiar transmuted into the fantastic.
Changeling is the book to fix all that. From Sherman's magnificent handling of Asperger's Syndrome in fairy-land to the clever puzzles and challenges that Neef overcomes, this story is fast-paced, and weird in an intensely recognizable way.