Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 5
Genre: mystery, magical realism
What did you like about the book? Middle grade readers will enjoy the adventures of Stella and her cousins Strideforth and Hortense at their mysterious family estate, Wormwood Mire. Stella has been sent to the rundown-and possibly haunted-old manor by her disagreeable aunts as something of a punishment, but she actually finds herself comfortably at home among her friendly, eccentric cousins and their governess. She also hopes to find some answers to questions about her family, especially the identity of a baby in a photo who might be her sister. Add in secret passageways, rumors of monsters, and a Latin-speaking seagull and you have a guaranteed page-turner, a perfect adventure in which young readers can lose themselves. Although this is the second book about Stella, readers need not have read the first volume to enjoy this one. Parts of the story are poignant, parts are quite frightening, and all of it is exciting so this might make an excellent family or classroom read aloud. The periodic illustrations are lovely, done in “ink, pencil, watercolor and digital work.” The text and the illustrations are printed in green on cream paper and this adds to the charm of the story.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I liked everything about this book. But very young readers or listeners might need some reassurance after the children’s encounter with a particularly evil dentist.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read Alikes? Make sure readers know about the first book of Stella’s adventures, Withering-by-Sea. Readers may also enjoy The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey. Although very different in tone, readers looking for another wonderful story of an orphan sent to a strange new home should be encouraged to try The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Who should buy this book? Public libraries, elementary schools and middle schools should consider buying this book.
Where would you shelve it? Middle-grade fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Not necessarily, although it was a fun read.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: August 10, 2017