Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell

The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

This is a great book if you can’t decide which genre you want, because it combines historical fiction with a mystery and a fantasy edging towards horror--but in a way that really works, rather than just seeming like a hodgepodge that couldn’t make up its mind.

The book is set in the late nineteenth century, and is told from the point-of-view of Clara, an eleven-year-old girl who is a shut-in because of her weak heart. Not only can she not venture into the world, but the home she is shut into is the decrepit mansion of a formerly famous but now deceased magician, The Great Glendoveer, whose widow Clara’s mother now serves as housekeeper. The only outdoor space that Clara is allowed to enter is the estate’s backyard rose garden, but she doesn’t like going there because it is also home to an aviary with five loud, squawking birds that frighten her, but to whom the aging Mrs. Glendoveer is completely devoted.

Shortly into the book there is a death, which eventually launches Clara into investigating a decades-old mystery. Along the way, Clara encounters a variety of intriguing matters, including a kidnapping, locked doors, a missing scrapbook, an unexpected ally, ghostly presences, secret messages, and various kinds of exotic magic. In the end, however, the book is not about ghosts or magic or codes--it’s about friendship and family and how to restore them if ever they go astray.

I really enjoyed how this book was written. The descriptions are vivid and sometimes poetic, and the characters are well developed and appropriate to the time and setting (whereas I sometimes find characters in these historical fictions to be more modern than I think they should be for their times). The plot builds up very nicely, with the necessary clues being laid carefully without the plot twists being obvious. It is a very imaginative story set in a time period that isn’t too common in children’s literature lately.

All in all, I think it is quite a good read, and a worthy contender for Newbery consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment