Adventurous Elvia Hill is fed up with her overly cautious parents, who lost her older sister, Jane, to cancer. They protect Elvia, never allowing her to take risks or do anything fun. She feels trapped, but when her mother wins a lottery—round-trip airline tickets for a wildlife safari—her luck improves. Her parents are worried for her safety in the African bush, but Elvia’s thrilled, so they take her along anyway, hoping for the best.

To the Hills’ horror, their worst nightmare unfolds. Elvia disappears, apparently snatched and eaten by a lion! A massive search ensues, involving a bushman tracker, a delusional lion expert, a witchdoctor, a sham DNA testing company, and a kind, local couple who run an organization called Parents of Swallowed Children and are keen to help.

The search comes up empty, though, and for good reason: Elvia’s not where they think she is. She’s on a distant two-mooned planet, instead, having a grand and glorious adventure, cruising aboard a luxurious submarine with a queenly “uppy” and a lively sailor-boy-pirate with the unlikely, but fun, name of Rats!

At first, Elvia’s escapade is so exciting that she forgets about home. But when a terrible crisis unfolds aboard the boat and she’s the only one who can save the day, she must bravely face the same terrible fear that her parents have been avoiding since Jane’s death. And she discovers, too an even more powerful, singular emotion that opens her heart and transforms her troubled family forever.

moonbeam award

Book Reviews

“A fast-paced, thrill-a-second, sci-fi adventure packed full of twists, turns – and suspense!” The Wishing Shelf

“Elvia and the Gift of Passion is an incredibly exciting and wonderful middle-grade/YA fantasy book that I will struggle to forget for a long time! Elvia and the Gift of Passion has astounded me; I enjoyed every single moment of the book because it was by far a perfect read.” Red Headed Book Lover

“Ballard weaves a delicate tale, rich and unique. Elvia and the Gift of Passion delivers excitement and surprise on every page.” Chanticleer Recommended Editorial Review

“…The irresistible adventures of a young girl spirited away to a two-mooned planet…” Book Life “Editor’s Pick”

“[Elvia and the Gift of Passion] is both a swashbuckling adventure and a bittersweet story of growing up. Elvia’s journey through this imaginative world [of planet Urth] is a charming coming-of-age tale woven with whimsy and warmth and will hook young and old readers alike…” Melissa Dalley, The US Review of Books

“Teachers seeking STEAM-based stories to recommend as leisure choices that lend to further discussion and insights will find Elvia and the Gift of Passion takes an unusual leap, linking emotional and educational growth in proactive young people who don’t just explore new environments, but enter and change them with gusto.” Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Ballard’s sci-fi charmer is deliciously atmospheric, building a vividly imaginative world that gently explores familial ties, friendship, courage, adventure, and curiosity.” BookView Review

“…Ballard’s writing is lively and fun, and her character-building is a marvel; she has created rich, imaginative personalities… Additionally, Ballard weaves fascinating science facts into her narrative. By the time readers reach the story’s conclusion, full of surprising gems of irony and fate, they will be spellbound—and eager for another Urth tale.” Blue Ink Review

“Action-packed and plot driven with enchanting settings and sensational characters, the story is a propulsive read with end-of-chapter cliffhangers, which make it hard to put down. Young readers will be delighted by Elvia’s wild odyssey told in Ballard’s lively prose and entertaining wordplay – vividly setting each scene, and making each character distinct and engaging.” SP Review

“A thoroughly engaging planet-hopping adventure that should be a solid hit with middle-graders.” The Prairies Book Review

“Ten-year-old Elvia Hill is convinced there was a mix-up when she was born, and devises a scheme to run away while vacationing in Tanzania with her parents… until she’s snatched away and taken to a distant world called Urth in this fantasy adventure. Ballard’s fascinating science facts and the imaginative characters she’s created are bound to keep readers enthralled.” Deb Greenberg, Midwest Book Review