Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kid Konnection: The Humming Room & Class 2K12 The Wicked and the Just

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to review a fun middle grade book by an author who always seems to deliver.

Summary: 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. -- Feiwel & Friends

I would definitely say that the members of our household are big fans of Ellen Potter. Booking Daughter enjoyed her Olivia Kidney series, and I loved SLOB and THE KNEEBONE BOY (you can read my reviews here and here), so when Ms. Potter asked if I was interested in reading her latest middle grade novel THE HUMMING ROOM. THE HUMMING ROOM is a modern day retelling of the childhood classic THE SECRET GARDEN, and I thought Ms. Potter did a wonderful job of bringing this story to life.

THE HUMMING ROOM tells the story of Roo, a young orphan who is sent away to her uncle's strange mansion on an isolated island in the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York after her parents are killed. When she arrives at the house, she discovers some very unusual things. For instance, the house was a former children's hospital and seems to maybe have ghosts, her uncle disappears for months at a time, her newly discovered cousin is an emotional wreck, and a mysterious boy hangs out by the river. However, Roo also discovers a neglected and dried-up garden that she can't help but tend to.

There are many secrets in THE HUMMING ROOM, and Roo is determined to find some answers.. as will the reader. This novel is beautifully written and Ms. Potter has created some extremely memorable characters. Personally, I adored Roo despite finding her a bit harsh at the beginning of the novel. (Of course, given what Roo has gone through in her short life, it's no wonder that she's a tough cookie!) I loved her determination and spunk, and I enjoyed seeing how she evolved (and mellowed) throughout this story. She is one of those characters that will remain with the reader long after they finish this story.

I hesitate to even admit how long it's been since I've read THE SECRET GARDEN, so many of the comparisons were lost on me. Having said that, I've read enough articles about THE HUMMING ROOM to pick up on the similarities as well as the differences. It sounds as if Ms. Potter did a remarkable job with her retelling, and I am now very curious to do a re-read of THE SECRET GARDEN and have my own compare and contrast session.

While I can't really compare THE HUMMING ROOM and THE SECRET GARDEN at this time, I can speak to how great I thought THE HUMMING ROOM was. Ms. Potter is a wonderful writer and she has created a setting that is so vivid that I would actually classify it as a character in its own right. I loved the descriptions of the old mansion as well as the river and even the town; and while these locations almost seemed to be from days in the past, the novel still had a modern feel to it.

I appreciated how THE HUMMING ROOM evoked so many feelings in me from nostalgia, to curiosity, to enjoyment; and I highly recommend it to middle grade readers as well as fans of THE SECRET GARDEN.

Thanks to the author for providing a copy of her latest novel.

A few months ago, I introduced this new feature on Kid Konnection. For those of you who missed it, here's the scoop:

Throughout 2012, I will be featuring many of the authors from the Class of 2K12. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Class of 2K12, it's a group of middle grade and young adult authors who have books being released some time during 2012. You can learn more about the authors and their books here. (And while you are visiting the blog, make sure you sign up for their mailing list. You are going to want to stay informed because there will be many opportunities to win some fantastic prize packs!)

You might notice that I used the word interview in the previous sentence, and that's because I didn't really interview the authors. Rather, I asked each author to do one simple thing:

Describe your book in 200 characters or less. 

I asked J. Anderson Coats author of THE WICKED AND THE JUST (which will be available on April 17th) to describe her book in just a few words; and here's what she had to say: 

1293. An English girl unwillingly moves to a walled town in north Wales. Welsh servants are fun to torment. Life is good. If you're English. But with taxes, famine and a draft, things are getting ugly.

You can learn more about the book here or on the author's website.

J. Anderson Coats owns 194 books about the middle ages.  This doesn’t seem like very many unless you consider the fact that she’s never had a real job.

Jillian grew up in a houseful of books alongside two cats and an older brother.  Her mother, a librarian, exposed her to the beauty and diversity of the written word.  Her father, a scientist, taught her to question it.  Both of them encouraged her to write, even when her stories were written in crayon and featured nothing but ponies.

At age thirteen, Jillian finished her first novel.  It was pretty bad, but fortunately no one told her that.  By the time she graduated from high school, she’d written six other novels, including one massive 500,000-word doorstop book with a sweeping, complicated plot and way too many characters.  None of these books was very good, but she loved every single one and learned something new with each.

Jillian studied history at Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors.  She also holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Drexel University and a master’s degree in history from the University of Washington.  She loves the smell of old books, and she’d set up camp in the archives if they didn’t keep locking the door at night.

Currently, Jillian lives in the Pacific northwest in a hundred-year-old house with her husband, teenage son, and a cat with thumbs.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

I don't think I've ever read The Secret Garden. Roo sounds like a great character and The Humming Room sounds like a book I'd enjoy.

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for you info on The Humming Room. It sounds intriguing. I'm definitely going to look for it.

dogwood said...

I came across The Humming Room on Amazon a while back and added it to my wishlist for my daughter. I'm so glad you reviewed it! She and I both LOVED the Secret Garden, so this sounds like a real winner.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I think The Humming Room sounds like a good read. I have a friend who has some younger daughters I am going to mention this too. They love to read!

Beth S. said...

I've heard great things about both of these books. I definitely need to check them both out!