PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah deFord Williams


Age Range: 10 - 14
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When Sadie and Zuzu’s family moves from Texas to their grandmother’s house in Salt Lake City, they explore an attic cubby (marked “Palace Beautiful”) and discover a diary written by a young girl who lived in the house during the flu epidemic of 1918. The diary becomes a magnet for the sisters and their new friend from next door, Bella (for Belladonna), who wears black and is mistreated by her mother. As the three girls read the diary aloud by candlelight, the hardships described in the journal become a parallel story about a baby brother dying, Sadie’s pregnant stepmother and family relationships. The modern plot line is dragged down by two devices: Sadie’s conviction that each person came into the world in a different, fanciful way and her tiresome penchant for characterizing colors that label the chapters—Wide-Awake Red, Bubbly-Churning Green. The only textual marker rising from the mid-’80s time frame is the stepmother’s cosmetic parties, where she tells everyone they look like Jackie O., a reference that will likely mystify modern readers. The journal entries, which are the heart of the story, override the distractions. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-25298-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2010