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The Humming Room: A Novel Inspired by the Secret Garden Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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“Fans of the classic [The Secret Garden] will delight in the similarities and differences.” ―School Library Journal
“Ms. Potter revives the story [of The Secret Garden] with such grace and sensitivity.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Potter excels in creating quirky yet sympathetic characters with richly allusive connections to classic children's literature...” ―BCCB
“This noteworthy novel stands wholly on its own, as Potter, with classic and contemporary storytelling flair, deftly interweaves fantasy, mystery, suspense, and realism. Beautifully wrought, eloquent prose combines with vivid setting details and diversely-drawn characters to affectingly portray themes of loneliness and grief. Roo is a memorable character--her experiences prove transformative in unexpected ways and, ultimately, her complexities and growth ring true. Poignant without sentimentality, this is a compelling read that is certain to resonate--and linger--with young readers.” ―Booklist, starred review
“Potter intentionally evokes the [Secret Garden], capturing its bittersweet emotions and fey qualities. But it is not a clone in modern dress. The author has created a fresh tale with a strong-willed heroine. . . . . An homage to a cherished classic that can work as a companion piece or stand alone as a solid, modern tale for young readers in the 21st century.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Potter lavishes attention on the gothic island setting and Roo's uncle's estate; it's a thrilling ghost story, but one that, like the story it's drawn from, has love and rebirth at its heart.” ―Publisher's Weekly, starred review
“After the violent death of her drug dealer parents, Roo Fanshaw is sent to live with her wealthy and eccentric uncle on the remote Cough Rock Island in upstate New York. At first her new home seems strange compared to her life full of instability and neglect, and does nothing to lessen her instinct to hide. Small, quiet, and stubborn, Roo prefers to listen to the earth and would rather hide in caves than be around people. But slowly she grows attached to the offbeat characters that make up her new world. Secrets surround Cough Rock Island and the Fanshaw family, giving Roo a mystery to investigate. Her discovery of a garden, a friend, and a cousin draws Roo out of her shell and she ends up flourishing in her new surroundings. A novel closely inspired by The Secret Garden, Potter, who wrote The Kneebone Boy, once again produces a smart, thoughtful, and captivating story. Though a modern tale this tribute to the classic still has a timeless feel.” ―Emily Griffin, Children's Literature
About the Author
Ellen Potter is the author of The Kneebone Boy, also published by Feiwel and Friends, and praised as "a quirky charmer" by Kirkus in a starred review. Her other novels include, Slob, a Junior Library Guild selection, and the bestselling Olivia Kidney series. She lives in Upstate New York.
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Roo is surprised to find out that her father has a rich brother, and that this uncle has invited Roo to live with him on Cough Rock Island. It might sound like a good deal, but when Roo arrives she finds that his home is a delapidated facility that once served as a hospital for children suffering from tuberculosis. Apparently, the hospital was not very successful in its treatments because there is a chute where they used to throw the bodies of kids that didn't respond to their cure. Her uncle, who looks like a twin of her dead father, wants nothing to do with Roo, shoving her off on his assistants, Ms. Valentine and a young woman named Violet.
Roo is allowed to explore any part of the former hospital except the East Wing, but that is precisely where she keeps on hearing strange humming noises, crying, and sometimes, screams.
There is a byline on the cover of this book that states that The Humming Room is "inspired by The Secret Garden". I have never read the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett but I remember I really liked the 1993 film adaptation back in the day. Having only seen the movie, I would say that Potter's novel sticks pretty close to the story of The Secret Garden. What Potter did was simply to update it a bit, maybe making the story a bit grittier with Roo's father and stepmom being murdered. She also made the atmosphere a lot creepier. The old hospital has lots of old abandoned beds, wheelchairs, and other things left behind. It's almost like Potter took the story of The Secret Garden and set it in the environment of The Orphanage, the Spanish horror film.
I enjoyed this book, but felt it stuck a little too closely to the story that inspired it. I think Potter should have been more imaginative and bold and played with the plot a bit more.
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Humming Room". Roo is a truly fantastic character. I love how adventurous she is. I love how even though she hears the humming and the crying, it doesn't frighten her like it would most people. In fact, it only makes her more curious, forcing her to keep snooping. Roo is a very take-charge kind of character; she's smart, she's curious, and she's tough.
My only problem with "The Humming Room" would have to be the ending. I just felt like between chapter twenty and twenty-one, things just kind of went full speed ahead. The ending just felt somewhat rushed.
While it's evident throughout that "The Humming Room" was inspired by "The Secret Garden", Potter still manages to make the story her own. If you're looking for a short, exciting read, I'd highly suggest checking out "The Humming Room". It is a truly fantastic modern re-telling of "The Secret Garden".
Fun fact: The Kindle version of "The Humming Room" comes with "The Secret Garden" (it's probably the same for the Nook version as well, but I'm not entirely sure). I thought that was a wonderful idea, to include the book that inspired "The Humming Room".
Roo's story is an interesting departure from Potter's Olivia Kidney series and Slob. That makes it a satisfying read for older kids and for adults.