A young orphan finds herself in a remote mansion that hides many secrets.
Roo’s childhood has been traumatic; she is ill-fed, ill-clothed and too small for her age. She spends much of her time hiding in cavelike spaces, with her ear to the ground listening intensely to the movements within the Earth. When her drug-dealing parents are killed, she is sent to live with an uncle on an isolated island—Cough Rock—in the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. The local inhabitants are earthy and superstitious and seem to hark back to an earlier time. Her uncle stays away for months at a time. A newly discovered cousin screams and cries and rarely leaves his room. There is also a mysterious, long-neglected garden that calls to her. The characters and events are nearly exact counterparts to those found in the classic The Secret Garden. Potter intentionally evokes the earlier work, capturing its bittersweet emotions and fey qualities. But it is not a clone in modern dress. The author has created a fresh tale with a strong-willed heroine. Though Jack is no Dickon, Roo might be more likable than Mary Lennox.
An homage to a cherished classic that can work as a companion piece or stand alone as a solid, modern tale for young readers in the 21st century. (Fiction. 9-12)