Family dysfunction receives mystical resolution in this Swedish import by Astrid Lindgren winner Sandén.
Thomasine finds herself living in the enormous house of her dying great-great-aunt Henrietta with her depressed and grieving father, her awkward academic uncle and his children, Signe and Erland, and her angry aunt and her daughter, Wilma (the oldest of the cousins). The children sense the palpable tension among the adults over Henrietta’s pending death, but when silent, 5-year-old Signe returns from a wardrobe during a game of hide-and-seek and talks about a girl she met in it, Thomasine finds this hard to believe. But as each of the cousins visits the wardrobe, it positively transforms them, and although Thomasine doesn’t realize it until nearly the end of the novel, these wardrobe visits also connect them with their family history. While emphasizing death as an essential part of life, this story places children at the center of the emotional healing process for the adults, which at times means that the child must tell the adult to be quiet, listen, and pay attention. Both macabre and hopeful, this Swedish gothic, with Schulman’s wispy illustrations depicting the characters as white and adding to its mystery, will remind readers of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Coraline, and perhaps other fantasies in which a quotidian household object becomes a portal into another world.
A thought-provoking read that will linger long after the last page. (Fantasy. 9-12)