Four children find enchantment while exploring a seaside cave in this debut middle-grade novel.
Twelve-year-old Addie Heath lives outside of London and isn’t looking forward to seeing her three rambunctious cousins again: Bodie, 6; Beanie, 9; and Jack, 13. They’ll all be staying at their grandparents’ beach house on the American East Coast. Spending time with her relatives would be bad enough. What makes it worse is that Grandma Winnie has died, and while Addie would prefer to be alone with her memories, she knows that her cousins will intrude on her sadness. The boys, for their part, are wary of Addie. To them, she seems aloof, and her accent makes her sound stuck-up. But Bodie’s excitement brings them together. When Addie dreams of a moonstone and Bodie finds one just like it, the cousins go exploring and uncover a secret realm linked somehow to their grandma’s past. Grandma Winnie was a Native American. Only Jack has inherited her looks, but all four children share an appreciation of her spirituality. When they find themselves in the Garden of Choice, with dangers ahead and only their family bond and a spirit wolf to protect them, Addie and her cousins must make peace with one another and with their grandma’s passing. Hobbs’ writing harks back to the days of Enid Blyton, with her multiage characters embarking on safe escapades while learning simple but important life lessons. The four Heath cousins are distinct in personality and speech and are vividly depicted across 10 black-and-white images by debut illustrator Parame. Addie’s love for her grandma is evident, as is her sense of loss, while her social conflict—she and the boys being forced together despite hardly knowing one another—is one that many children will relate to. The quest narrative itself is perhaps a little undemanding (the children have few genuine choices to make), but the Native American aspect lends it substance, and its value in any case lies in the forging of family ties. The gently adventurous story nips along at a good pace for middle-grade readers.
A quick and enjoyable sortie into the world of preteen family friendships and escapades.