MYSTERY OF DREAR HOUSE by Virginia Hamilton
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Winner of an impressive number of prizes, including a Newbery and two Coretta Scott King awards, Hamilton is at home in biography, folklore, and fantasy; here, in a sequel to The House of Dies Drear, she returns to realistic fiction with roots in the past of both family and place. Thomas Small and his family inhabit the old Drear house, keeping secret the tunnel, fabulous treasure, and Underground Railway hideaway discovered in the earlier book. Old Plato still lives nearby in a cave that conceals an entrance to the tunnel; and Thomas still thinks of the neighboring Darrow men as enemies, though Pesty Darrow is a friend and Macky might become one. The Darrows have been seeking the rumored treasure for generations. Unexpectedly, Mrs. Darrow, an aweinspiring recluse whose mind is trapped burrowing in the past as others might be caught burrowing in Drear's perilous historic tunnels, makes her way through a tunnel that the Smalls were unaware of, into their dwelling. Now everyone has secrets to defend; and in order to save the historic treasure from looting and its searchers and defenders from the tunnels' dangers, Mr. Small (a history professor) goes public with the find, effectively both preserving it and realigning his family and the Darrows in a tentative friendship. On one level, this is an accessible tale of an exciting discovery, lively with conversation and action. But Hamilton's stories are always complex, multileveled. The muted contrast among three families of diverse ages, education and status, while emphasizing their common humanity; the historical undercurrent surfacing in Mrs. Darrow's tragic story of an Indian girl who lost her life while failing to save a group of orphans from slavers; and the intricacies of ownership and use of whatever treasures there may be, and their effect on owners or users, are among the themes to ponder here. Hamilton's clean, spare style delights and surprises with its unexpected melodies and insights.
Pub Date: March 16th, 1987
ISBN: 0590956272
Page count: 228pp
Publisher: Greenwillow
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1987


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