It is with great shame that I admit that I haven’t read some of the classics of children’s literature. (I’ve only been an elementary librarian for three years, so give me a bit of a break.) One of the books that escaped my notice as a child–and an adult–was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I think I remember seeing a film adaptation of the book when I was younger, but it must not have had enough robots, aliens, or other supernatural creatures to hold my interest. (I haven’t changed much since I was a kid.)
Anyway, I’m now reading the books nominated for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, and one of them, The Humming Room by Ellen Potter, is inspired by The Secret Garden. Of course, I went into this book with very little knowledge of what happened in The Secret Garden (and I assume many of my students will have a similar reading experience). After reading The Humming Room, though, I find myself wanting to read its inspiration. I’m hoping the same will be true of my students.
In The Humming Room, we meet young Roo Fanshaw. Roo has not had an easy life so far. She has no memory of her mother, and her father and his girlfriend were recently killed while Roo hid underneath the house. (Roo is an expert hider, by the way.) Eventually, Roo is found and sent to live in a foster home for a while. It is soon discovered, though, that this troubled young girl will be taken in by her wealthy uncle and sent to live on Cough Rock Island along the St. Lawrence River. The large edifice on the island was once a sanitarium for children with tuberculosis, and, almost immediately after arriving, Roo senses that this strange home is harboring some secrets…
Roo has some trouble adapting to her new home. She’s not used to being watched so much, and she looks for places to hide, places to make herself as small and unnoticeable as possible. But what will happen when Roo is the one who begins to notice things–strange things about both the island and the building that is now her home? Roo often hears a strange humming noise in the house, and she does her best to figure out where the noise is coming from. Her explorations lead her to some big surprises…including a garden that has been left to die in the center of this mysterious house. Who put this garden in the middle of the house? Why? And why has it been abandoned and left to die?
Roo is searching for answers to the mysteries surrounding her, and she may find help in some unexpected places. She encounters a remarkable boy who appears to live on the river. What’s his story, and where is his home? Roo also discovers yet another strange boy living right next to her. Who is this boy, and why is everyone so determined to keep him a secret? More importantly, what is his connection to her often-absent uncle and the dying garden that has been kept hidden from everyone?
Join Roo as she struggles to save the things that are fast becoming important to her–friendship, a family she never knew she wanted, and a garden that, with a little love and care, can blossom just like Roo’s hopes for the future. Explore the possibilities when you read The Humming Room by Ellen Potter.
I enjoyed The Humming Room much more than I thought I would. I found Roo to be a very sympathetic character, and I’m sure many young readers will agree. It’s easy to root for her, but readers will also be wildly curious about the mysteries surrounding her new home. That curiosity will, I predict, keep them turning each page. (Young readers may also enjoy Roo’s uncanny ability to evade the adults around her!)
The Humming Room is an excellent read for those in grades 3 and up. I’m guessing that adults who enjoyed The Secret Garden will enjoy comparing the two books, and The Humming Room may just convince readers who haven’t read The Secret Garden (like me) to finally give it a try.
For more information on The Humming Room and other books by Ellen Potter, visit her website at http://www.ellenpotter.com/. You may also want to check out her book trailer for The Humming Room below.