The Secret of Goldenrod
Written By Jane O’Reilly
“The littlest things make you happy.”
“As the littlest things should,” Augustine said.
I requested this book when it first became available on Net Galley, and it has been a struggle not to start reading it right away. But I have to keep to my schedule if I want to get all my reviews done, and so I had to put off reading this for months and months while it continued to taunt me from my virtual shelf.
Then Lerner Publishing put out this great behind-the-scenes blog post about the editing process and they used The Secret of Goldenrod as their example.
As you can see by my comment on their post, I’ve waited since April to read this book!
I loved their post for two reasons:
1. It had an outstanding (and super short) excerpt from the book, and 2. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the publishing process.
But now, at last, I have read The Secret of Goldenrod and get to share it with you all.
With an October 1st publishing date, this is the perfect tale to kick off Halloween season.
A lonely girl…
A mysterious old house…
An antique doll.
So many things intrigued me about this book, but the antique doll really did it. What’s not to love about a possibly haunted house and creepy antique doll?
There are many things I loved about this book, but let me start with the one thing I didn’t love. I’ll get that out of the way, and then the rest of the post will just be a profession of all the wonderful things about this book.
For a book centering around a haunted house, the story was not very scary. I realize this is a middle-grade novel, so we don’t want to terrify young children, but a few times the story had the opportunity to crank up the scariness, and it fell just short of the spine-tingling mark. As it shied away from delivering truly scary scenes, it also shied away from dealing with heavy issues faced by the main character and her father.
And that’s all I’m going to say on that note, because overall I thought the book was great, and it will be a fantastic Halloween read for many young readers. In fact, the lack of terrifying scenes probably makes it better for many readers (and their parents).
These are a few of my favorite things
This book is chock full of fantastic middle-grade themes.
- Making Friends
- Fitting In
While Trina is not your average fifth grader, she is someone children will still relate to. The only daughter of a single father, she loves school but faces “new kid” challenges nearly every year as her father moves a lot to fix up old houses.
This year, her new school jitters are compounded by the fact the whole town thinks Goldenrod, the house her and her father are living and working in, is haunted. With no friends, and no desire to return to school, Trina throws herself into the work with her father and ends up finding a mysterious and beautiful antique doll.
Trina is headstrong and adventurous, but that doesn’t get her into quite as much trouble as the reader might expect. As I mentioned before, the book shies away from anything too dastardly, so Trina approaches, but always stays well away from crossing the lines of temptation and trouble making. That’s not to say she doesn’t find herself in precarious situations, its just that the situations always work out a little too perfectly.
With a small cast of main characters, Trina and her doll take the spotlight with the house also featuring as a major character in its own way. Trina’s dad is a lovable character and the changing dynamics between him and his growing daughter are amusing and sweet. While Trina is the most developed character, the other characters don’t feel flat or act as fillers. Each character serves a purpose, and ultimately plays an important part in the story arc.
Weaving in generous amounts of traditional fairy tales, the story has a magical charm about it that is reminiscent of childhood, when anything seemed possible. I left this book wanting to read old fairy tales and renovate a Victorian house….and possibly play with antique dolls.
A beautifully told tale of family and home, this story is full of thought-provoking moments and poignant quotes. While I wish heavy emotions had been dealt with more directly and openly, this book still has resounding messages of love and forgiveness, which will resonate with readers of all ages.
This is a book children will adore. Highly recommended for children 8 and up.
5 stars for the book to wear forever and ever.
“What is more special than forever and ever?”
Thank you to Net Galley and Lerner Publishing for a reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.