Hiding is Roo Fanshaw’s special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment’s notice. When her parents are murdered, it’s her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.
As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn’t believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.
Despite the best efforts of her uncle’s assistants, Roo discovers the house’s hidden room–a garden with a tragic secret.
Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.
Thank you to Raincoast Books for providing me a copy of this book for review!
This was such a sweet book! Before I read it, I wondered if I would feel lost having not read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden beforehand, but this story definitely stood on its own. I only wish it had been longer! At only 182 pages, this story provides the story of Roo, an orphan who goes to live with her uncle on an island where she encounters secret doors, a mysterious garden, and many other things!
From the first pages, I knew this was a book I would enjoy. I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade books, but when I find one that looks spectacular, I try to get my hands on it. I would say this one is similar to Lauren Oliver’s Liesl & Po because it contains ghosts and is told in a fairytale kind of way, but there were so many other things going on. Most of all, I think my favourite part of the story was Roo. Her determination to be herself was amazing, even if that meant she’d get on other peoples’ bad side. BUT, throughout the story we see a remarkable change in her character that brought a smile to my face. At just 12 years old, she shows so much growth in character that it’s hard to remember that she was only 12 years old.
While the story was short, there was so much going on — and a little something for everyone, at that. The whole mystery of the island was something I really loved, though part of me wished there was more mystery to the children’s hospital. Though, I have to admit that I had my suspicions of certain things happening in the beginning and was completely wrong by the end! I also loved the ghost part of the story and the more mythical, folklore part. There are so many wonderful characters in this book that I would love to talk about, but I really don’t want to ruin the fun of readers discovering these characters on their own!
But one really great thing are the friendships that Roo makes. Before she goes to the island, she has nobody, but just the memories of her parents, and the girls in her foster home who aren’t very nice to her. Going to an island where everything is new and she doesn’t know anyone really made her evolve as a person and become someone that kids reading the book could look up to. It’s also great to see her break free of her bratty attitude, but still keep herself in the process.
This was a really nice read and my only real complaint was that it was too short. I wanted more details and maybe even a little MORE mystery (even though there was quite a bit to begin with). Still, this would be a great read for younger audiences and even older audiences who want an nice little escape. I know finishing this one made me quite interested in reading Ellen Potter’s inspiration for the story, The Secret Garden. If you’re a fan of that story, then I think you should check this out!
FYI: The paperback version of this story will be released on April 16, 2013 by Square Fish.
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