Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Humming Room by Ellen Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.
As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.
Despite the best efforts of her uncle's assistants, Roo discovers the house's hidden room--a garden with a tragic secret.
Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.
Note before I begin the review: The Secret Garden is probably my favorite classic. At least I find it to be the most memorable of any book I read in my childhood. I remember checking it out from the library during summer vacation and reading it over and over and falling in love with the story. I even remember pulling it off the shelf for the very first time. So when I requested The Humming Room I knew it was going to be an I-love-it-or-hate-it book for me. Good news for Ellen Potter. I loved this book so effing much I would sing from the rooftops. If I had a rooftop to sing from. And a physical copy of this book to hold up like Mufasa holding up Simba for all the world to see. I thought it was brilliant. I don't read a lot of re-tellings because oftentimes I think the original is good enough (why retell it), but I took a chance on this one. And I'm glad I did.
It's a short book at only 187 pages, but to me it made a huge impact. This is what a middle-grade novel should be. The author took a very special classic and made it her own. The imagery and setting were out of this world. It's been a long time since I read The Secret Garden, but this novel brought it all back for me and really has me wanting to read it again.
I loved so many things about The Humming Room. I loved how Roo put her ear to the ground to listen for living things in the earth. She did this a couple of times in the book. I loved how Roo loved animals and I loved how the author wrote about them with such reverence. There were quite a few different plant and animal species mentioned, and I thought that was super cool. As an animal lover and someone who thinks that books have such an impressionable effect on our youth, I think this book provided some really important lessons.
By far my favorite part of the book was when Roo discovered the garden. Just like it's my favorite part in the original, it was also my favorite part here. There is something about that scene that is just so damn memorable. I loved watching the garden grow and come to life. I loved the little black squirrel that followed Roo around the island. I loved the Heron, Sir, that followed Jack around. There was also a mink and a nesting ground full of terns. Special, I tell you.
I thought the setting development was done really well. The rivers and the different islands were so vividly presented. The house was creepy (as it should have been), but at the same time so enchanting. The hidden garden was done in a really cool way and I found all of it totally plausible.
If I had one complaint, it was that I felt the ending was rushed. The regeneration of the garden and the family happened too quickly and I felt the back half of the book wasn't evenly balanced with the front. Shame, but otherwise a brilliant retelling of a children's classic. Not enough of a criticism to give this book any less than 5 stars. I enjoyed it that much. It's not very often that I fall in love with middle-grade novels, but this book sent me over the edge.
To pre-order a copy of The Humming Room from Amazon.com, click here: The Humming Room.