The Humming Room
By Ellen Potter
Published 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Roo is good at hiding - she's had to be with the kind of life she's lived. But now, Roo is supposed to live a different kind of life. She's been taken in by her mysterious uncle, who lives in a former sanitarium. It's supposed to be a second chance for her, but Roo can't ignore the strange noises she hears and the secrets that seem to surround the place. She'll get to the bottom of it.
This book received some buzz in the kid's lit award circles last year and it's a current Bluebonnet nominee here in Texas, so it's been on my radar for a while. As I frantically finished my summer reading log, I snatched this one off the shelf and pretty much devoured it over the course of a couple of sittings. I really enjoyed this one.
It's been an extremely long time since I read The Secret Garden - probably twenty years or so - so the notion that this is inspired by that story is mostly lost on me. However, even with the gap in my knowledge, it wasn't difficult to parse which aspects of this book came from Frances Hodgson Burnett's. The setting, for one, which is one of my favorite aspects of this novel. I think Potter does a stellar job setting just the right mood for her story with this slightly creepy and secretive setting. I love how things are described in this novel - everything is very much tinged with Roo's perspective and the unease she feels at her new situation. Mixed with the unease, though, is some excitement and determination - she wants to know more about this strange place and her strange uncle, and these feelings permeate all the descriptions of Roo's setting in the book.
I also really enjoyed Roo herself. She's a complex character, one I think will be good for kids to see. She's had a hard life and it has changed her, but she is still a kid and things could still get better for her. I like her stubbornness and how she works to hone the skills she believes in for herself. I love her intrepid spirit - once she's set her course, nothing can deter her.
The slow reveal of all the secrets of Cough Rock Island also worked really well for me, perhaps even better because I don't recall the details of The Secret Garden. I liked how Roo uncovered the truth and used it to help heal the island's residents.
Overall, I found this a really engaging and well-written read that I'll be happy to recommend to young readers.