Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Humming Room

The Humming Room by Ellen PotterTitle: The Humming Room
Author: Ellen Potter
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: February, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: 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.
What Kellee Thinks: Take The Secret Garden throw in some folk tales, a dash of mysterious characters, and a handful of Ellen Potter's luscious descriptions and you have yourself The Humming Room. Ellen Potter does a great job of capturing what we all loved about The Secret Garden- the secrets, the mystery, the hope; but she also added in her own touches through a unique setting on the St. Lawrence River and the folk tales that exist in this magical place.  I also loved Roo much more than Mary from The Secret Garden.  I understood why Roo was angry and acting the way she was while I always felt that Mary was just being spoiled and rude.  And Roo is a character that many will connect with.  Her subtle way of going about life and appreciating so many little things is a beautiful quality.  Also, some readers will connect with her need for isolation and her disconnect from other people- a quality that is not often found in a book and just might be what this reader needs.  Overall, a beautiful book giving homage to a wonderful classic.  

Sidenote: Love the symbolism of the heron.  I first realized what a solitary blue heron symbolized when I read Cynthia Voigt's A Solitary Blue. Such a beautiful animal and strong symbol. 
What Jen Thinks: I loved reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and A Little Princess as a child. I reread The Secret Garden in 2009 because I remember loving the story and wanted to remember exactly what the story was about. I’m glad I had so recently read the book because Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room is inspired by this book. I was able to recognize so many similarities. In both books, it bothered me how fast things happen at the end. It seems like so much of the book was spent figuring out the house and the secret that is hiding but then once the main character has discovered everything, the relationship with her cousin and her uncle goes so fast. I wish both authors had spent more time developing this part of the story. Also, is anyone else wondering about Roo's parents? I was so intrigued that I wanted to know more, I felt like this was only half explained.

What I really enjoyed about Ellen’s book were the differences between her book and The Secret Garden. In general, Ellen's writing is completely lyrical and, frankly, melodic to read. It gives the entire book a different feel that is unique to Ellen Potter. One difference that stood out to me was that she changed around the setting. I loved how Roo has a completely different house (on an island, no less) to discover. It was fun to read where her explorations led her. I love the idea of old houses with hidden passageways here and there. My favorite part was the addition of the folklore surrounding the island.  It was an added element that made the story much more interesting for me. Reading about Jack and about his friendship with Roo was the best part. I wish this part of the story could have been developed more…maybe we need another book, Miss Ellen!

If ever two books were made for practicing text-to-text connections, this is it. Ellen Potter has given teachers a reason to revive their recommendations of The Secret Garden, a classic, well-loved book, and then at the same time to recommend The Humming Room, a new twist on that beloved novel. I have enjoyed looking at how the two books are similar and how they differ and I can see how a student would be up to the same challenge. This would even make a great mother-daughter book club discussion.
Read Together: Grades 3 to 7
Read Alone: Grades 5 to 8
Read With: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt, Our Only May Amelia and Turtle In Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, The Secret of Indigo Moon by G.P. Taylor, Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O'Dell
Snatch of Text: 
 "The water looked thick, like an expanse of angry gray muscle. 
It shoved at the boat mercilessly, tossing them about, making Roo feel helpless and angry." 

"She stood very still for a moment, listening. No, not listening exactly. It was more like sensing. 
She tested places in this way. In some places the air felt very full.  These places smothered her; 
too many people came and went. She preferred the places where the air felt wispy, 
where everything passed through lightly and carefully." 
Mentor Text for: Figurative Language, Characterization, Adaptations, Symbolism, Theme, Descriptive, Setting
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you were nervous to take a risk. How did you overcome your apprehension? Was it worth it to take the risk or did you regret it?
Topics Covered: Death, Grief, Family, Isolation, Nature, Animals, Hope, Friendship, Folklore
We Both *heart* It: 


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