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The Humming Room

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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. 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.


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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. 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.

30 review for The Humming Room

  1. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    4.5. I guess I should start by telling you how much I love the classics - how I was this weird little girl who read Oliver Twist like 45 times, or got more excited about the box of illustrated classics I got for Christmas when I was 9 than I was for the toys (in fact, I remember none of the toys, but still have most of the books).  And I should probably tell you about how much I adore Francis Hodgson Burnett, and have read The Secret Garden more times than should be mentioned in polite society. I 4.5. I guess I should start by telling you how much I love the classics - how I was this weird little girl who read Oliver Twist like 45 times, or got more excited about the box of illustrated classics I got for Christmas when I was 9 than I was for the toys (in fact, I remember none of the toys, but still have most of the books).  And I should probably tell you about how much I adore Francis Hodgson Burnett, and have read The Secret Garden more times than should be mentioned in polite society. I should tell you this so that you understand the equal parts excitement and trepidation I feel when someone says they are rewriting a classic, especially one so beloved.  There's always the chance that it's going to be a giant fail, and that I will be stuck with forever associating it with a favorite book of mine.  But thank you, grilled cheesus, this was not even a little bit fail.  Ellen Potter really managed to capture the things I loved about The Secret Garden but still make them her own, which is no easy feat.  She managed to capture the atmosphere of TSG, which is impressive because we live in a much less isolated world now.  But for all that, people still feel isolated, which is one of the keys of the story.  Potter captures both senses of isolation, the actual physical isolation and the way people close themselves off, and she worked them together beautifully. Potter also captures the tone of the original.  There's a dreaminess that I think a lot of children's books fail to capture, but that Burnett and Potter have.  It makes me wistful, makes me miss being a kid, exploring and lounging in the hazy days of summer.  Reading these books is almost like a memory - something is triggered and you can almost feel it again. And there's a longing that comes with that, a sort of knowledge that it can't go on forever, so it's bittersweet.  Potter weaved this atmosphere, this feeling, throughout the book, and it made me connect to it in the way that I absolutely love, and that all children's books should strive for.  It was a lovely reading experience because of it. But what's most impressive is that she captured the heart of the book.  I really, really liked Roo's blossoming.  OMG that was a horrible pun.  But I'm leaving it because it's totally true, and is an element that was carried over nicely from The Secret Garden.  The whole story at its core is really about blossoming, about growth.  About making connections to something outside of yourself, sending out your roots and flourishing.  This is true of the garden and the characters (metaphors!!! *jazz hands*), and is part of what makes the story so charming and so relatable.  Potter captures that growth and that sort of awakening really well. Roo was charmingly dysfunctional.  And just charming in general.  As were most of the side characters.  I think some of the negative aspects of personalities from the original were removed or sort of shifted.  There wasn't really much of a mean schoolmarmy thing going on, or as much of a petualant, sick child.  It was there, just a little milder.  Roo was much more likable early on than Mary was.  I think because you can immediately see how much she is hurting, where as Mary just seems spoiled. There is still a tinge of darkness to the story, but I think it's a more understandable darkness for a modern audience, and it never intrudes to the point of making a character unlikable. My one drawback was that it ended a little too abruptly for me.  Well, maybe not abruptly, but the end was lacking a little of the finesse that had made it so lovely.  It's such a short book, so when a short book that is well developed throughout suddenly lets off at the end, it always makes me feel a little cheated. I can't help thinking in such instances, You weren't running out of room - it's a short book!  Add a little, finish it out nicely for me.  I hate loving and loving and loving something, only to end it saying "Oh..."  [This is not to say it's a bad ending, necessarily, or that the book is any less worth reading.  Just that - it didn't match up, and it left me a teeny bit disappointed.] But that being said, it is a highly enjoyable story for those who have read The Secret Garden, and for those who haven't, as well as for middle grade and adult readers alike. Plus, there's the Faigne.  Worth reading, if only for that...

  2. 5 out of 5

    R.J.

    I loved this book even more than I loved the classic it's based on, and I don't say that lightly. Everything that rubbed me the wrong way about THE SECRET GARDEN (especially the Disability Fail) is dealt with beautifully here, and Roo's tough background makes her personality utterly believable and maintains the reader's sympathies (though NOT their pity, because Roo is far too strong and dynamic a character to be pitied). I adored the supporting cast, Jack especially, and the way the author make I loved this book even more than I loved the classic it's based on, and I don't say that lightly. Everything that rubbed me the wrong way about THE SECRET GARDEN (especially the Disability Fail) is dealt with beautifully here, and Roo's tough background makes her personality utterly believable and maintains the reader's sympathies (though NOT their pity, because Roo is far too strong and dynamic a character to be pitied). I adored the supporting cast, Jack especially, and the way the author makes the setting come richly and vibrantly alive. For such a slim book there is a lot packed into these pages -- it's light, but never slight. Beautifully done, Ellen Potter.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    The writing was superb, but unfortunately the story was too similar to the original story, The Secret Garden. What started off as a fresh tale with quirky characters turned into a predictable and, at times, disappointing rehash of the great classic. I understand the author's intent was to retell the original story, but felt she needed to claim it as her own. Early in the book there was the suggestion of an other-worldly force at work, which seemed capable of giving this story a new twist. Unfortu The writing was superb, but unfortunately the story was too similar to the original story, The Secret Garden. What started off as a fresh tale with quirky characters turned into a predictable and, at times, disappointing rehash of the great classic. I understand the author's intent was to retell the original story, but felt she needed to claim it as her own. Early in the book there was the suggestion of an other-worldly force at work, which seemed capable of giving this story a new twist. Unfortunately this element was not developed. In that respect, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half, but not so much the second half where, for me, the story converges much too closely to the original. Not sure I would recommend this to a young reader over the original, nor do I think young readers would enjoy as much after reading the original. Still, if you or your child have no intention of reading the early twentieth century work of Frances Hodgson Burnett, Potter's updated interpretation is well written by an author who obviously has a skill for creating interesting characters. I will add that I ordered the The Kneebone Boy after reading this book because I was so impressed with the author, even if I found this story lacking.

  4. 4 out of 5

    April

    Oh friends, I love reading books that just fuel my love of the middle grade category. The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a very small book. Your eye might not even see it on the shelf – which is quite unfortunate. I’ve not seen much fanfare for The Humming Room which is a shame, because it’s a quiet, beautifully written take on The Secret Garden. Read the rest of my review here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy Eye

    Roo starts the book off pretty rough. Well, it started way before we came in on the story, but we find that out as we go along. Her father and his girlfriend were killed, leaving Roo all alone. Not that things were all that great before, she was never dressed properly, never fed well, and she preferred the company of dirt over people. Her knack of hiding comes in handy when her uncle takes custody of her. Not only does she find some amazing new hiding spots, but she learns a little more about li Roo starts the book off pretty rough. Well, it started way before we came in on the story, but we find that out as we go along. Her father and his girlfriend were killed, leaving Roo all alone. Not that things were all that great before, she was never dressed properly, never fed well, and she preferred the company of dirt over people. Her knack of hiding comes in handy when her uncle takes custody of her. Not only does she find some amazing new hiding spots, but she learns a little more about life itself. The story was cute. Never having read The Secret Garden, I wasn't sure what I was in for. While you could definitely tell there was a beginning, middle and end, the middle seemed to fly through so many of the experiences too quickly, and the ending was wrapped up too nicely and abruptly. This story really could have benefited from some extra detail in the building of relationships, the development of Roos character and some explanations on some things. (possible spoilers ahead) Roo's eyes go from a dull green to a bright green in the middle - that was pretty much all that was said about it. I think it would have been nice to see more explanation on this - talk about why they did this. Discuss her relationship with the earth more. Give us details that will make us fall in love with the characters. The same goes for Jack - he is this incredible being - and we don't know much about him at all. Phillips angst was played down to some temper tantrums. And the budding relationship between Jack and Roo was desperately lacking what it needed to be more than merely nice. The vocabulary in this books leads me to believe it was written for 10- and 12-year-old readers. I think an extra hundred pages filling in these extra parts would have been great for readers of that age and give them a more fulfilling reading experience. More background on the family; more mystery to the old hospital; more overall emotion. I do love Ellen Potter's writing, but this book for me fell short of what I would look for in a book that I would want to read again and again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    TheBookSmugglers

    First Impressions: Ana: Sometimes my book-reading decisions are very easy to make: I wanted to read The Humming Room on the strengths of its cover alone. I knew nothing of it when I started reading it and didn’t realise it was a retelling of The Secret Garden (haven’t read that book) until I was done and read the blurb. I read the book without any expectations whatsoever and even though I have a few reservations, I really enjoyed this story. Thea: I, too, was immediately struck by the lovely cover First Impressions: Ana: Sometimes my book-reading decisions are very easy to make: I wanted to read The Humming Room on the strengths of its cover alone. I knew nothing of it when I started reading it and didn’t realise it was a retelling of The Secret Garden (haven’t read that book) until I was done and read the blurb. I read the book without any expectations whatsoever and even though I have a few reservations, I really enjoyed this story. Thea: I, too, was immediately struck by the lovely cover for The Humming Room, but also was motivated to read the book because of the praise I’ve heard for Ellen Potter’s previous novel, The Kneebone Boy (which, incidentally, also has a gorgeous cover). I was thrilled to discover that the book was actually a retelling of The Secret Garden (which I haven’t read since I was a child), and found myself caught up in Ms. Potter’s lush writing style and enamored with heroine, Roo. I truly enjoyed this book, although it felt a little abrupt and I can’t help but think there should have been more to the story – but overall found The Humming Room to be a sweet, lilting read. On the Plot: Ana: The first thing that needs to be said is: I haven’t read The Secret Garden so I can’t say first-hand how much of The Humming Room is a close homage/retelling and how it might deviate from the original (or not). I do believe that being unencumbered by expectations or by previous knowledge of this story proved to be a blessing in this case (I mention this because earlier this week I reviewed Gil Marsh which was also a retelling and which I approached with great expectations). With that caveat out of the way, The Humming Room was an enjoyable, if uneven, read. Its first half is definitely its strongest: it is beautifully written and we get a good sense of the main character and her developing arc (more on that later). This story has been transported to modern times but there is a certain timeless feel to it which comes from the setting – an old mansion on an isolated island. It is evocative of old-fashioned stories and I loved it because of that. I also appreciated the subtle narrative that hints at mysteries, ghost stories and even tales of fairies. However, the second half is distinctively different. In the first half things were developed slowly, by introducing the main character Roo and the mysteries surrounding the house, the island and its inhabitants with gentleness and care. But once a secondary character is introduced and the mysteries revealed, the story is rushed up, leading to an extremely abrupt and undeveloped climax that left several things unexplained and unresolved – at least for me. Despite this unevenness, I am still glad that I have read The Humming Room. Thea: It has been a very long time since I have read The Secret Garden (or since I have watched any of the many film adaptations – my favorite being the one with Maggie Smith), and my memory of the story is a little fuzzy – I remember the highlights (the broken family, the supposedly crippled son and standoffish father, and for some reason I remember that maid Martha had a cockney accent), but I went into The Humming Room with no real expectations or demands. Happily, I found myself easily slipping into this more modern re-imagining of The Secret Garden without any trouble. Instead of following a young girl whose parents died of a cholera outbreak in British colonized India, The Humming Room takes a young girl named Roo from her trailer park home after her drug dealing father dies to live on a strange isolated island called Cough Rock in her uncle’s mansion. The story runs fairly parallel to the original source material – the orphaned girl moves to a secluded home only to stumble on a family saga, and of course, a literal and metaphorical secret garden that will blossom once again with care and time. From a storytelling perspective, I love Ellen Potter’s sense of atmosphere and backdrop – one of my favorite parts of The Humming Room is the setting of Cough Rock, the history behind the name (the mansion used to be a Children’s Hospital for those suffering from Tuberculosis), and the gothic, ghostly touch to the story. I loved the feel of the island, the river that surrounds it, and the folklore of the Faigne and the Yellow Girl. That said, I do have to agree with Ana in that while the style and setting to The Humming Room is beautiful in the first portion of the novel, something is lost by the second half, and the ending to me felt rushed and incomplete. I also remain unconvinced of the “magical”/fantasy aspects of the novel…but perhaps that’s just my own personal taste. On the Characters: Ana: Roo is a wonderful strong-willed protagonist and I thought her story arc was beautifully done and it showed character growth. The transition from a malnourished, lonely, stand-offish child to a blossoming young girl was my favourite aspect of the novel. I loved the small details of how Roo interacted with others and with the world around her – her hiding places, her talking to animals and her connection with the natural world. Unfortunately, the secondary characters are not developed much beyond their initial introductions and this is especially true about the villains of the piece are so underdeveloped (they shows up, they do villainy things, they leave never to come back) as to be completely pointless. Thea: I *LOVED* Roo as our heroine – she’s quiet and thoughtful and, as one character describes her, she takes in everything the world has to offer and makes herself hard like a steel beam. She watches, she listens, and she learns; I had no problems believing in this twelve year old protagonist and her own unique way of seeing and reacting to people around her. I’m a little hesitant to name any other characters, because to do so might spoil folks that are unfamiliar with The Secret Garden, so I’ll try to be sufficiently vague here: The characters from The Secret Garden are all in The Humming Room, following the same types of arcs and characterizations as those upon whom they are based. Again, the only disappointing thing to me was how rushed the book felt by its climactic scenes, and how I could quite buy into the fantasy-ish elements of the story (in particular, one fantasy-ish character). Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:: Ana: Despite its unevenness, I truly enjoyed The Humming Room and it made me really want to read The Secret Garden and see how it compares. Thea: I agree that the book is uneven, yet I still thoroughly enjoyed reading The Humming Room. Ellen Potter’s beautiful sense of imagery, setting, and her loving care for description and language completely won me over. I’ll certainly be reading more from this author in the future.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Before picking up the book, I had no idea that it was closely based on The Secret Garden. I just knew Ellen Potter wrote it, and I think she's an excellent writer. Honestly, if the inside cover hadn't mentioned The Secret Garden, I still wouldn't have known for a while, because it was not immediately obvious. (Once it becomes obvious, though, it is quite obvious.) I know some readers haven't liked how closely it mirrors the original story, but I thought the characters and setting were unique eno Before picking up the book, I had no idea that it was closely based on The Secret Garden. I just knew Ellen Potter wrote it, and I think she's an excellent writer. Honestly, if the inside cover hadn't mentioned The Secret Garden, I still wouldn't have known for a while, because it was not immediately obvious. (Once it becomes obvious, though, it is quite obvious.) I know some readers haven't liked how closely it mirrors the original story, but I thought the characters and setting were unique enough for the book to stand alone. And I really enjoyed reading it. I kept feeling like Ms. Potter was going to introduce something magical or fantastic, but any magic was fully believable and not really classified as magic. More like mysteries of life. This book made me want to go reread The Secret Garden right away, which I think makes it a rather fitting tribute to an excellent book. Those unfamiliar with Burnett's work should find it enjoyable on its own, while Secret Garden fans will probably enjoy seeing how various story elements parallel the original.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

    I still really need to read Ellen’s THE KNEEBONE BOY.... It’s been on my shelf for about 6 years.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alessandra

    I am disappointed with this book. On the one hand, it's a not bad story of Roo Fanshaw, an orphaned girl taken in by her uncle, who discovers new friends and brings a neglected garden back to life. On the other hand, it's a complete retread of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, almost scene for scene and character for character. The author says outright this book was "inspired" by Burnett's classic. That's probably a good thing, because otherwise she would probably be at the center of a f I am disappointed with this book. On the one hand, it's a not bad story of Roo Fanshaw, an orphaned girl taken in by her uncle, who discovers new friends and brings a neglected garden back to life. On the other hand, it's a complete retread of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, almost scene for scene and character for character. The author says outright this book was "inspired" by Burnett's classic. That's probably a good thing, because otherwise she would probably be at the center of a firestorm for, if not plagiarism, out and out theft of the entire story. How close is it? (Major, major, major spoiler alerts) (view spoiler)[(Roo Fanshaw / Mary Lennox), a peevish, undersized, neglected child, is suddenly made an orphan due to (a drug deal gone bad / a cholera epidemic). She had played at gardening by (secreting stolen glass flowers under her parents' trailer / sticking cut flowers in mounds of dirt). She is kept briefly in (a foster home / a clergyman's house) where the other children tease her, and then escorted to her mysterious absent uncle's house by (Ms. Valentine, dressed in purple and black / Mrs. Medlock, dressed in purple and black). The house is (a huge former sanatorium on an island in the Saint Lawrence River / a huge mansion in the countryside of England), and is nearly empty except for( a cheerful helper and companion, Violet / a cheerful housemaid, Martha). (Violet / Martha) explains folksy local folklore to (Roo / Mary), and explains that she is there to help support her mother and siblings. The mysterious uncle is away traveling most of the time. (Roo / Mary) sneaks around and hears mysterious noises and crying. (Violet / Martha) tells (Roo / Mary) about the local ("faigne," or river spirit / animal-taming boy, Dickon). (Roo / Mary) meets a (black squirrel / robin) who leads her to various plot elements, including an abandoned (domed tropical garden / walled garden). (Roo / Mary) meets (Jack / Dickon) and his near-pet (fox / heron), and soon shows him the garden. (Jack / Dickon) shows her natural wonders and creatures of (the Saint Lawrence River / Yorkshire). (Roo / Mary) learns that her uncle had a wife who loved the garden but died under mysterious circumstances, after which the garden was shut up to die. (Roo/ Mary) becomes determined to bring the garden back to life, with (Jack / Dickon)'s help. (Roo / Mary) wonders if (Jack / Dickon) is really a (wood fairy / faigne (Guernsey water fairy)). (Roo / Mary)'s uncle is self-pitying and distant, but shows his compassion by (sending her good new clothes like the shabby old ones she liked / giving her leave to garden anywhere she should like). (Roo / Mary) follows the sound of crying in the night to find a huge, well-furnished bedroom with a big four-poster bed and a crying boy. He thinks she is a ghost. He is rude and imperious, and she discovers he is her cousin, (Phillip / Colin). The two children knew nothing of each other. (Roo / Mary) talks to him and tells him stories. (Roo / Mary) introduces (Phillip / Colin) to the garden and the (squirrel / robin) and (Jack / Dickon). The three children vow to bring the garden alive again. (Phillip / Colin) is treated by the sinister Doctor (Oulette, who is as unpleasant as he first appears to be / Craven, who turns out to be not so bad). Even the tantrum scene is almost identical, except Roo smashes some of her cousin's animal skeletons. (hide spoiler)] There are original elements, most notably a hint of possible supernatural involvement (which does not, in my opinion, improve the story), and an overbearing tutor. I wonder about some things. In the original story there is an army of offstage servants taking care of the house. In The Humming Room it's only Roo, Ms. Valentine, Violet, and sometimes Roo's tutor on the entire island in the great sanatorium. Who keeps the place clean? Who cooks? The environment of the Saint Lawrence River islands sounds magnificent, it's true. The Humming Room is told faster than the original book. Even in The Secret Garden, the ending feels rushed and a bit contrived. This book is shorter than its model, and a lot happens without explanation. Roo is a thief at the beginning of the book, then decides to stop being one. Doctor Oulette is onscreen for a single brief scene and says almost nothing, then later causes an intense but brief crisis while still offstage. A piece of jungle folklore is introduced early to be used as a deus ex machina later -- how and why it works is never explained. I can see why some people would like a modern, simpler, easier-to-read retread of The Secret Garden. But it seems to me that this version is too slavish an imitation, simply a modern skin put over a story that was already written, and written well, a hundred years ago.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lizzy

    Most people assume that being strong or tough is the skill that will protect you and save you, help you survive when you're in a dangerous situation, but Roo Fanshaw sees it differently. Her special skill is hiding, being able to disappear at a moment’s notice. Roo has spent most of her life hiding, finding the smallest spaces to curl herself into. It is in these small spaces that she feels able to breathe freely; in fact, open spaces make her feel enclosed, as if she can't breath. It is Roo’s h Most people assume that being strong or tough is the skill that will protect you and save you, help you survive when you're in a dangerous situation, but Roo Fanshaw sees it differently. Her special skill is hiding, being able to disappear at a moment’s notice. Roo has spent most of her life hiding, finding the smallest spaces to curl herself into. It is in these small spaces that she feels able to breathe freely; in fact, open spaces make her feel enclosed, as if she can't breath. It is Roo’s hiding skill that saves her life when her parents are murdered in the trailer where they lived. Roo was hiding underneath it, close to the earth. Roo feels she has a quiet connection to the earth and the life that dwells in it. She puts her ear close to the ground and she can hear, actually hear, the sound of life teeming beneath it –a kind of humming sound. Though she loves the quiet reflection of small safe places, Roo’s life doesn't stay quiet for long. After her parents die, a long-lost eccentric uncle agrees to take her in. She moves to his mansion on Cough Rock Island, a mansion that was once a hospital for children sick with tuberculosis, full of secrets and ghosts. Roo doesn't believe in ghost stories, but there are strange noises coming from the forbidden east wing of the house, and the locals are full of superstitious stories of the river and the mansion. But the river, the mansion, and life on the islands have their own story to tell. Since she came to Cough Rock, Roo is full of questions. Who gave her uncle those bloodied scratches across his face? What is that strange humming sound Roo hears through the wall? Who is that wild boy canoeing up and down the river? Roo is determined to come out of her hiding space (both physically and mentally) and learn the truth about the house and her family. Though everyone in the house tries to keep her away, Roo discovers a secret garden hidden in the center of the mansion, a garden locked away because it holds a tragic secret. This story is inspired by the classic "The Secret Garden." Though elements of the story unfold in a familiar way, the characters that Potter creates are quirky and likable. Roo is strong and feisty. The author has done an excellent job of giving readers a different angle on a familiar story. Reading The Humming Room may even inspire you to take a favorite classic tale, write what it would be like in a different time, with different characters, and see how the story unfolds.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nafiza

    Potter narrates The Humming Room with a finesse and a skill that makes reading the novel a true (serious) pleasure. Roo Fanshaw is an amazing protagonist. She is half wild, existing in a world that measures space and how she can use it to conceal herself. Her world is entirely different from the world that adults exist in and I love how Potter doesn’t spell out Roo’s early home life to the reader and instead hints at it in a way that older readers will catch it while the younger readers may not Potter narrates The Humming Room with a finesse and a skill that makes reading the novel a true (serious) pleasure. Roo Fanshaw is an amazing protagonist. She is half wild, existing in a world that measures space and how she can use it to conceal herself. Her world is entirely different from the world that adults exist in and I love how Potter doesn’t spell out Roo’s early home life to the reader and instead hints at it in a way that older readers will catch it while the younger readers may not be able to. This is what makes The Humming Room such a multi-faceted novel that will work for a person no matter what their age. I didn’t know it was a retelling of The Secret Garden and to be honest, I didn’t think there was much emphasis given to the garden as was given to the fledgling relationship between the cousins. It was truly refreshing to read Roo’s metamorphosis, for lack of a better, from the scared half-wild child she was into the still, eccentric, but someone a bit calmer, a lot happier. Also, the real wild child, the boy who may or may not be real, the boy who is legend, he is also one of the most interesting characters I have recently come across in a novel. I love the hint of a romance between Roo and this boy. It’s just a whisper really, just the subtlest hint and I think that is what makes it even more awesome. The little cousin’s floundering, his sickness, the ominous doctor, all these separately come together to create a novel that is immensely entertaining and that lets you have a glimpse of the magical world of childhood that many of us have unwillingly left behind. The only problem I had with this novel was how abruptly it ended. I wasn’t ready for it to end, I thought there was a lot more to be told and that Roo had a lot more story in her but alas. Do I recommend this? Hell yeah. I think you should all pick yourselves up a copy as soon as you possibly can.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Hesitant about a rewrite of one of my favorite books, I was pleased to read the last page feeling that this book's connection to The Secret Garden actually enhanced the experience. Many of my students want to read that classic, but the language (including the Yorkshire dialect and accent of some characters) makes it inaccessible to most non-native speakers for several years. Abridged versions have their place, but aren't the best solution. The Humming Room, however, has its own merits, distinct Hesitant about a rewrite of one of my favorite books, I was pleased to read the last page feeling that this book's connection to The Secret Garden actually enhanced the experience. Many of my students want to read that classic, but the language (including the Yorkshire dialect and accent of some characters) makes it inaccessible to most non-native speakers for several years. Abridged versions have their place, but aren't the best solution. The Humming Room, however, has its own merits, distinct from its identity as a rewrite. There are also two issues which this book is better able to address for 21st century sensibilities. First, the Dickon character's relationship with animals respects their wildness better; no herding a menagerie into bedrooms here. Dickon may have been my first literary crush as a child, but I do prefer this updated attitude. Second, Potter has smoothed out the deus ex machina that abruptly brought about the resolution in Burnett's original. It was more common in children's books of the time to have a realistic story interrupted by one moment of "...and then magic happens," but modern readers expect greater consistency. Although the overall pacing of The Humming Room is a bit off - the exposition lags, and both the main action and denouement feel rushed - the resolution's nature is of a piece with the rest of the novel. The most telling evidence of my opinion of The Humming Room? Potter's previous book, The Kneebone Boy, is now on my nightstand.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Almost four stars. I like Potter's writing and characters. This one didn't feel as risky (or as meaningful) as The Kneebone Boy (and now I can hear Peter Sieruta's voice in my head, saying "well, maybe I'll actually like this one, then; it's an intriguing premise, an updated version of The Secret Garden"). I loved the Secret Garden parallels in the first few chapters--the hiding, the being transported away to her uncle's place by the housekeeper/personal assistant--but rather wished that things Almost four stars. I like Potter's writing and characters. This one didn't feel as risky (or as meaningful) as The Kneebone Boy (and now I can hear Peter Sieruta's voice in my head, saying "well, maybe I'll actually like this one, then; it's an intriguing premise, an updated version of The Secret Garden"). I loved the Secret Garden parallels in the first few chapters--the hiding, the being transported away to her uncle's place by the housekeeper/personal assistant--but rather wished that things had moved in separate directions from there. I didn't think the rest of it worked as well. In particular, there was an otherworldly/unreal quality to the dead mother's story that didn't seem to fit with the stark reality of Roo's life. I wasn't sure if that was intended or if I just didn't believe it, but either way, I didn't think it worked that well. And I didn't think the Colin-parallel character worked very well. I loved the upstate New York river island setting, and the sanatorium, and the way I felt when she was going down the chute (and remembered what the chute was used for). A lot of good things in this book, but I don't think it's one of the best of the year.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gizelle

    The humming room by Ellen potter is a mystery about this girl named Roo who just lost her parents and has to live on this island with her uncle and this spoiled brat and uncovers something big that might just change things. The reason I love this book is because of the girls personality and how she seems fierce and ready to take on anything. Also how the book leads with these adventures and the room the secret of the hidden room was shocking about what happened in their before she uncovered it

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessika

    This book was seriously difficult for me to rate. I have gone back and forth between 3 & 4 stars...it really makes me wish for those illusive half stars. Anyway, I digress. The Humming Room is truly an excellent take on a retelling of The Secret Garden, which I haven't read since I was a child. Although I haven't read it in so long, I absolutely recognized the general feel & ambiance of the classic tale. Ellen Potter captured it perfectly. And I really do appreciate what she has done for This book was seriously difficult for me to rate. I have gone back and forth between 3 & 4 stars...it really makes me wish for those illusive half stars. Anyway, I digress. The Humming Room is truly an excellent take on a retelling of The Secret Garden, which I haven't read since I was a child. Although I haven't read it in so long, I absolutely recognized the general feel & ambiance of the classic tale. Ellen Potter captured it perfectly. And I really do appreciate what she has done for young readers with this book. She took a classic tale & updated it, making it more accessible for young readers. I won't go so far as to say they should read this in lieu of the original, but I think it will encourage them to "tackle" the classic, if you will. Where this book really shined for me was in Ellen Potter's gorgeous writing and in particular, in Roo's character. There were certain passages describing the island or the garden that were just so beautiful & atmospheric that I was just transported there as I read. This is definitely a must-read for nature lovers, and this is especially evident with Roo's character. I really loved Roo, and even though I didn't find her growth as drastic as I had hoped, I still found her story to be sweet & redemptive...not to mention, I adored her love of nature. I guess where this fell to 3 stars for me is that it felt too short. For one, I felt like the ending was too abrupt. Also, the plot as a whole felt sort of rushed, and there were a good amount of things left unexplained. Plus, there were a couple side characters who I felt were just kind of thrown into the story. A few were mentioned almost in passing, and I wish we would have seen more of them. There was one in particular who, even though he was definitely prevalent in the second half of the story, I just felt like we never got to really understand his purpose. (I don't want to mention names for fear of spoilers.) Granted, this all could be due to the fact that I read this as an adult. However, I think my feeling of disconnect could have been solved with just an extra 50 pages. Again, I will say that as a whole, I thought this was an excellent rendition of The Secret Garden and a worthwhile read for young readers. There were a few things that kept me from loving this one, but I think kids would really be able to use this book as a spring board to expand their literary horizons.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Excellent, if a bit less fleshed out than it could have been. I think the most beautiful part of The Secret Garden, the book this book is based on, is how slowly it takes everything - really letting you immerse yourself in the secret. This book felt like it could have been twice as long again without losing my interest.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    One of my last good family read alouds!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sierra Abrams

    The Humming Room by Ellen Potter Pages: 192 Release Date: February 28th, 2012 Date Read: 2012, January 14th-16th Received: ARC from NetGalley Rating: 4/5 stars Recommended to: 11+ SUMMARY - Roo Fanshaw is small for her age, and very shy. Her father, a man who dappled in illegal activities for a long time, has just been murdered, leaving Roo alone and in the custody of whoever will take her. When she is taken from her home to her eccentric Uncle's house on an island, Roo finds this harder to bear than al The Humming Room by Ellen Potter Pages: 192 Release Date: February 28th, 2012 Date Read: 2012, January 14th-16th Received: ARC from NetGalley Rating: 4/5 stars Recommended to: 11+ SUMMARY - Roo Fanshaw is small for her age, and very shy. Her father, a man who dappled in illegal activities for a long time, has just been murdered, leaving Roo alone and in the custody of whoever will take her. When she is taken from her home to her eccentric Uncle's house on an island, Roo finds this harder to bear than almost anything else. When she arrives at her Uncle's mansion, what used to be a hospital for ill children, Roo finds herself drawn to the nature and the river on the outside - as well as the Humming that comes from the walls of the west wing. There are secrets here, and Roo is determined to uncover them. Can she unlock the mysteries of her family and heal her broken heart? MY THOUGHTS - This story is incredibly sweet - and also very powerful. I remember watching "The Secret Garden" movie a few times when I was younger, but I never got around to the book. I wanted to read this even before I knew it was a retelling - and finding that out just made me even more excited. I really like Ellen Potter's style. She uses words and sets pace very gracefully. Her writing style creates very clear imagery, very strong and interesting characters, and a touching, heartfelt story. I'm honestly really impressed by how beautiful this book is. CHARACTER NOTES - Roo Fanshaw is the quirky, realistic and vivid character I think everyone wishes they could write/read about all the time. She's the kind of character I always loved most growing up - the one you can relate to, but who has different struggles and a very realistic and unique personality. Roo had me eagerly awaiting her every action. Her personal struggles are deep; her endeavors - in the garden and with the boys she meets - are very touching. In this story, Roo's life is turned upside-down: she changes (and still stays very consistent), and she changes others around her. I really liked Violet's character - funny, talkative, and full of laughter. She brightened teh story a lot; without her it would have been a bit too dark. The Faigne and the other boy, Philip (I won't say anything in case you don't know much about the original story), were very different and both absolutely necessary to the story. Part of me wishes there had been more of both of them, but then again, it was great as it was. STORY NOTES - The Humming Room is a pretty darn intense story. Not like action-packed, but...eerie. Roo's adventures in her Uncle's dark castle, and in the almost fairytale-like land around it were riveting. Cough Rock was the perfect backdrop to the mystery and discovery in the story. For the most part, all the events and conversations were very well-placed; everything about the story was emotionally gripping. The two things that bothered me, the reason for 4 instead of 5 stars, were these: the part of me that wishes there was more development about the boys, and the end scenes. Those last two or three scenes were good, but not great like the rest. They came to a close a little too quickly, like they could have been stretched out maybe 15 more pages. Roo's Uncle Fanshaw could have been brought into things more as well. But overall, everything really was fantastic. From the garden to the Faigne; from the despair to the joy - I can't wait to have this one on my shelf and let my friends read it! SUMMING IT UP - The Humming Room is simple, yet so intricate as well. It was a really great read and I'm ecstatic to read Potter's previous book, The Kneebone Boy, which I've wanted to read forever but haven't found the time to. Now it's on my priority list, because Potter's work is just too good to pass up! For the Parents - Nothing at all!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    To start off with fairness this is an MG read, not my forte but if the story sounds intriguing enough I'll snag it. THE HUMMING ROOM fit this profile. I keep a special place in my cockle area for things related to THE SECRET GARDEN so when I saw that this book was influenced by it I accepted it for review. It was definitely a riveting story but the ending was abrupt, a blink and you miss it kind of thing that derailed the rest of the work for me perhaps a little more than what it should have. Roo To start off with fairness this is an MG read, not my forte but if the story sounds intriguing enough I'll snag it. THE HUMMING ROOM fit this profile. I keep a special place in my cockle area for things related to THE SECRET GARDEN so when I saw that this book was influenced by it I accepted it for review. It was definitely a riveting story but the ending was abrupt, a blink and you miss it kind of thing that derailed the rest of the work for me perhaps a little more than what it should have. Roo is an unfortunate case born to the wrong parents and as a result ends up in the care of her uncle who's more absent than present and keeps his kid locked up in his room for his sake, apparently. It's a cyclical thing. Phillip got depressed when his mother died and became bedridden but his father didn't really know what to do with himself and became more withdrawn, making them both more reclusive and fostering an environment of neglect and anti-social behavior. Crappy situation. Roo's a spunky little thing and doesn't put up with the crap that's been allowed to foster in this house and, as can probably be predicted, her presence riles things up, disrupts the otherwise fragile order of things. THE HUMMING ROOM sticks pretty closely to THE SECRET GARDEN storyline so if you know the latter you'll know the steps Phillip takes and ends up with a reintroduction to his father and all of that. Really it's a compelling story with the scene set magnificently. The house, which is really an old children's hospital, is given this incredibly creepy air that'll give you the chills just reading it. I mean how horrifying would it be to live in an old hospital where more children died than lived? Seriously? It may be Stephen King's wet dream but I sincerely doubt it's a child's first choice at a play place. But I think that was the best part of THE HUMMING ROOM, Potter's ability to make Roo's surrounding shine. Or cake them in cobwebs, as it were. The setting itself was it's own character, from the personification of the river to the garden, everything was alive. I felt Jack, the river boy, was ultimately irrelevant to the plot as a whole since the story really centered around Roo, Phillip and Roo's uncle. He was a means to draw Roo out of her shell which precipitated the events that moved the story forward but he didn't have much else of a function. Remove Jack from the story and I think it would have worked out just fine. As for the end, like I said above, it was really abrupt and I felt it was resolved too easily, glossing over what could have been a really good healing period to see between Phillip and his father for a flash forward moment. It plays into the nice resolution that I think a lot of MG novels have but as an outsider looking in it left me a bit unsatisfied. I would have liked to have seen more. Ultimately it's a read with a lot of ambiance that follows pretty closely to THE SECRET GARDEN premise. It's a good story and you'll end up feeling a lot for Roo, I think, since she really is an unfortunate character and the adults are a little less than understanding towards her (you can start a drinking game for how many times they threaten to send her back to foster care as a means of discipline, effing terrible). But she's a BIG character that, once she's out of her own shell, will pull others out of theirs as well. She's goal-oriented and has an uncanny knack for hearing the earth thrive. Kind of weird but it has it's part in the story. A good story at that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eve

    The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a fantastic, modern retelling of The Secret Garden. In fact, other than the names and the setting, The Humming Room closely follows the beloved original. So why read The Humming Room, you say, instead of just re-reading The Secret Garden? I give you – Roo. Distrustful and tough, wild and willful, Roo endeared herself to me from the first page. Something about Potter’s sharp and unsentimental description of the flatness of her green eyes, were they should be ali The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a fantastic, modern retelling of The Secret Garden. In fact, other than the names and the setting, The Humming Room closely follows the beloved original. So why read The Humming Room, you say, instead of just re-reading The Secret Garden? I give you – Roo. Distrustful and tough, wild and willful, Roo endeared herself to me from the first page. Something about Potter’s sharp and unsentimental description of the flatness of her green eyes, were they should be alive and brilliant but are spiritless instead --- won me. Roo has learned how to hide from the harshness of the world. She has no friends and refuses to talk to anyone, even if well-meaning. Easy enough if you're quiet and small and your charming but criminal father and his trailer trash girlfriend have no parenting instincts. But even Roo can't hide from the social worker who comes to get her after they're murdered. From hiding in a garden of pilfered, artificial flowers she created as a sanctuary below her family’s trailer, Roo is taken by the social worker to remote Cough Island to be raised by a rich, mysterious uncle she never before knew existed. "All around her on the icy, packed earth were dozens of tiny flowers, some made of blown glass, some trapped in Lucite domes-daisies, tiger lilies, a bouquet of pink roses, paper-thin red poppies. There was a pair of enamel earrings shaped like marigolds, large and gaudy, which she had stolen from the drugstore. She had mounded up earth and planted them by sticking their posts through the ground. Roo considered the little garden before nudging the poppies closer to the marigolds and putting the snake between them. Then she flung herself to the ground and listened to the earth. It was something she often did, checking the ground the way other girls might check the mirror. She could hear all its movements, small, fluttering sounds of life that fascinated her." There’s a quiet beauty to Potter’s writing which reflects Roo’s personality – ever watchful and observant. Roo is sensitive to everything around her, even if it’s not immediately apparent to anyone else. She can find an all but dead garden that’s been walled up on the island; she can hear life humming in a seemingly lifeless earth. Cough Island just wild and stimulating enough that it awakens Roo’s adventurous spirit. In doggedly resuscitating the secret garden and making unlikely friendships, Roo blossoms as well, coming to life when she stops hiding herself from the world and becomes part of it. The message in The Humming Room is exquisitely conveyed: Like the secret garden, Roo and other characters in may have walled off their emotions because of painful tragedy, but there’s always a chance for redemption and renewal.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    After The Kneebone Boy of course I was going to read Ellen Potter’s newest book. It didn’t hurt that it sounded intriguing, and that it was inspired by Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden did not serve as a detractor either. In short, The Humming Room was going to be win-win-win. And turns out–it is! I am going to admit to you that I am not the biggest fan of The Secret Garden, primarily because I found the characters incredibly annoying. The blame lies completely with me, I’m sure. Howev After The Kneebone Boy of course I was going to read Ellen Potter’s newest book. It didn’t hurt that it sounded intriguing, and that it was inspired by Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden did not serve as a detractor either. In short, The Humming Room was going to be win-win-win. And turns out–it is! I am going to admit to you that I am not the biggest fan of The Secret Garden, primarily because I found the characters incredibly annoying. The blame lies completely with me, I’m sure. However, I was spared this same experience with The Humming Room. I even found one to be downright charming–’course, he was supposed to be. You don’t have to have read The Secret Garden to read Potter’s story, but if you have, I think you’ll appreciate that which inspired and that which underwent change. For one, I loved that the setting was a sanitarium, it was very atmospheric. Roo comes out of poverty, and while she has a temper, Potter has set her differently and it translates well into the contemporary American setting. And the non-cousin has a bit of lore attached to him that is marvelous–and romantic. It is all very sweet, which balances out the mysterious and the melancholy. Potter does not flinch from the tragic, but carries the story by sheer force of personality–those of her characters. Potter stays true to the themes we loved in Burnett’s exploration. These are two great authors you and the young ones should be reading (boy or girl). Ellen Potter knows how to tell a story. It has a nice brief introduction and closing and the metaphors presented throughout are lovely lovely. Story and character both have a nice progression, and manages to embarrass the longer novels offered on juvenile shelves. It is a good quick fun read that robs the reader of nothing. ——————————————– recommendations: ages 8 & up; any gender. Potter deftly handles the deaths, as well as the specter of neglectful parents (one set of whom are known drug-dealers). Good for eco-crit; for creatives; for lovers of adventures and lore and mysteries and those brief chills at the back of the neck. of note: The Doctor Oulette’s name kept making me think “oubliette;” which is oddly fitting. Also, I like how she deals with the character. Not everyone has to be explained. You can make a pretty good decision in regards to what he is all about; and yet there is room to apply a reasonable amount of gray. L @ omphaloskepsis http://contemplatrix.wordpress.com/20...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    First I'd like to say that though it says this novel was inspired by The Secret Garden, I thought I was reading a Middle Grade version of Jane Eyre. Yes, there were a lot of differences, but the gothic setting, the hidden room, the crying, the secret rooms. It all reminded me of Jane Eyre. But despite all that, I have to say, I loved Roo Fanshaw! This is a kid that has been through it all. She was hiding under her trailer, playing with the glass garden she had planted under there while the polic First I'd like to say that though it says this novel was inspired by The Secret Garden, I thought I was reading a Middle Grade version of Jane Eyre. Yes, there were a lot of differences, but the gothic setting, the hidden room, the crying, the secret rooms. It all reminded me of Jane Eyre. But despite all that, I have to say, I loved Roo Fanshaw! This is a kid that has been through it all. She was hiding under her trailer, playing with the glass garden she had planted under there while the policemen are asking questions about the murder of her parents. Roo is strong. She compartmentalizes the pain and shuts it away. Save it for a day she can deal with it. She takes all the new experiences in stride . I never felt sorry for her, she just wouldn't let me. She was so inquisitive and didn't follow the rules. I loved everything about her from the way she hid in a little cave watching the water and learning the earth, to the way she explored the house when she was told not to. She could listen to the earth and hear things growing. She is one of my favorite protagonists in contemporary literature. The other characters, and I'll only name a few, the nasty Ms. Valentine, the always cheerful and permissive Violet, the elusive, but loyal and educational Jack and the never present Uncle. All of them add a lot to the story and make for an adventurous time. The story is laid out with great suspense and detail, but not too much. It's well thought out and enjoyable. The writing is easy to read and feel and there is a great feeling of what's going to happen next and I couldn't stop reading it until I finished it. Yes, it's like the Secret Garden and Jane Eyre and Roo is going to forever be in my heart for her bravery and her unwillingness to give up even in the face of insurmountable odds. I honestly don't know if this is a Middle Grade book or a YA book but it would be fine for either. It's light on the romance and big on the mystery. But the main characters are 14 or so I'm not sure if that makes it YA or not. I didn't think it was that close to the Secret Garden. There were a lot of mysteries to be discovered other than the Secret Garden. I highly recommend this one! I received an ARC of this from the publisher through NetGalley. I was in no way compensated for my review. This is one I will be buying for my shelf to keep to read again.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cecelia

    Let’s say we have a conversation about classic children’s literature. And when I say classic, what I really mean is old/classic (books over 120 years young!). The first ones that pop into my head are Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I have read both of these novels multiple times, but the latter is one that has aged well as I have gone from child to adult. Its story and characterization never grow…old. Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room is a retelling Let’s say we have a conversation about classic children’s literature. And when I say classic, what I really mean is old/classic (books over 120 years young!). The first ones that pop into my head are Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I have read both of these novels multiple times, but the latter is one that has aged well as I have gone from child to adult. Its story and characterization never grow…old. Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room is a retelling of Burnett’s masterpiece, and I was both excited and apprehensive about reading it – but I needn’t have been. Why? It’s really lovely. The Humming Room is Roo’s story. When we meet her, she is hiding, she has seen it all, and she knows that there isn’t a happy ending. But even though her situation is tragic, there’s a sliver of hope: Roo has a rich uncle, and a chance for a fresh start. How she takes to her new situation will determine who she becomes, and whether she allows the world and her circumstances to change her for the better. Potter’s character study of Roo is PERFECT. Her circumstances enhance the reader’s sympathy for her, even as she is sullen, solitary, and unhappy. Her inquisitive nature saves her, in a sense, and that theme is a major one throughout the book. Also stellar: the descriptions and history of Cough Rock. I was completely enchanted and mesmerized by the island world. The plot, if you have read The Secret Garden, is no surprise. What is interesting is the way Potter reinvented it by creating a completely unique place (Cough Rock, as mentioned). She also added substantial charm to the story with the particular folklore and superstition of the St. Lawrence islands. The Humming Room is a delightful and dear meditation on an old story, and a tale set in a new world that I long to inhabit. My only complaint is that it felt too short, and rushed at the end. I wanted more time on Cough Rock with Roo, Jack and Sir. Recommended for: fans of Burnett’s The Secret Garden, anyone looking for a beautifully-written middle grade book with a secret at its heart, and those who have never forgotten the wonder of first discovery – of a good book, of nature, and of friendship.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caranna

    The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a cute little story. It's a middle grade novel and is a quick read with a bit of mystery and just a touch a suspense. Roo has not had an easy life. In her short time on Earth she has known more hardship than many people ever do. After birth she was abandoned by her mother and although her father loved her and looked after her he was a drug dealer who was in and out of jail. They were always moving to avoid the law, as well as those on the wrong side of the law The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a cute little story. It's a middle grade novel and is a quick read with a bit of mystery and just a touch a suspense. Roo has not had an easy life. In her short time on Earth she has known more hardship than many people ever do. After birth she was abandoned by her mother and although her father loved her and looked after her he was a drug dealer who was in and out of jail. They were always moving to avoid the law, as well as those on the wrong side of the law. Roo's father had a rotating stream of girlfriends, none of which liked Roo much; the most recent one had a short fuse and a violent temper. Roo was good at hiding. She could cram herself into the smallest spaces and stay still for hours, this is how she survived. After her father was found dead, leaving Roo an orphan, the police found her cowering in the dark, damp crawl space beneath her family's trailer home. After spending some time in foster care Roo's father's brother sent for her. She was off to meet an Uncle she never knew she had. An Uncle who lived on a secluded island - in a manor that used to house a Children's Hospital. Tales of how hundreds of children had died within it's walls would have scared away many, but not the hardened and battle-weary Roo. Strange, and unexplainable things happened around the manor, but Roo was firm in her resolve that she did not believe in ghosts. She looked past the paranormal and kept looking for a logical explanation for everything that was going on. Throughout the course of this book we saw how Roo went from being a dull, and colorless wisp of a girl, who hung her head and hunched her shoulders. To one with rosy cheeks, and twinkling eyes, who held her head high and showed the world her smile. I think an underlying theme in this book was how when we think we are worthless, that no one wants us and that our goal in life is to be invisible everyone can see that. But when we have purpose and we grow to see that we have value and worth there is a visible, outward change. I was a little disappointed that there weren't any ghosts or supernatural powers at work, but I suppose there is value in keeping your head out of the clouds and doing some actual detective work.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan Dunn

    When we first meet 12-year-old Rue she is hiding under the trailer she calls home. Something terrible has happened and the police are looking for her. It turns out that she is now an orphan, which is not actually a bad thing in her case b/c up until this point her life has been one of neglect and abuse. The police discover that Roo has a wealthy uncle she never knew about, and she is shipped off to his mansion on Cough Rock Island (so named b/c the house used to be a sanitorium for children with When we first meet 12-year-old Rue she is hiding under the trailer she calls home. Something terrible has happened and the police are looking for her. It turns out that she is now an orphan, which is not actually a bad thing in her case b/c up until this point her life has been one of neglect and abuse. The police discover that Roo has a wealthy uncle she never knew about, and she is shipped off to his mansion on Cough Rock Island (so named b/c the house used to be a sanitorium for children with tuberculosis). Her uncle travels a lot, so Roo is mostly left to herself with some supervision by the hired staff. Her only instructions are to stay away from the east side of the house. This is where the book really begins to take on inspiration from The Secret Garden. Roo hears a humming in the walls on the east side. She sneaks off to investigate, but can't figure out where it's coming from. The one night she hears crying and goes to investigate, and to her surprise, discovers that there is a boy living in the east wing. It turns out he is her cousin, Phillip, who has been sickly since his mother died. Grief stricken and hostile, he stays indoors and interacts with no one outside of those living on the island. He and Roo slowly become friends, but he is very troubled. Roo wishes there was something she could do for him. In further exploration of the house and grounds, Roo finds a beautiful garden that has been walled off by her uncle. She is drawn to this place, and little by little does her best to bring it back to life. Eventually Phillip is let in on the secret, and being in the garden - a place his father built for his mother and that he loves - begins to bring him back to health. But when Phillip's doctor sends him away, Roo has to resort to desperate measures in order to rescue him. Part homage, part ghost story, and an exciting adventure too. I liked this one, but don't think it really fits the criteria for the Schneider award. Phillip isn't that sick - and his illness isn't a real factor in the plot. Would be a fun read to recommend to fans of the Secret Garden!

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    The Humming Room by Ellen Potter, inspired by The Secret Garden, is the story of Roo who is adopted by her uncle, after Roo's parents die, and taken to Cough Island on the St. Lawrence, where whe discovers a sick cousin and a (almost) destroyed, closed-up garden. I really enjoyed parts of The Humming Room, particularly the character of Roo, and the evocative descriptions of the river, island and the wildlife. Potter makes you feel the isolation of the island. Violet added needed warmth. Other cha The Humming Room by Ellen Potter, inspired by The Secret Garden, is the story of Roo who is adopted by her uncle, after Roo's parents die, and taken to Cough Island on the St. Lawrence, where whe discovers a sick cousin and a (almost) destroyed, closed-up garden. I really enjoyed parts of The Humming Room, particularly the character of Roo, and the evocative descriptions of the river, island and the wildlife. Potter makes you feel the isolation of the island. Violet added needed warmth. Other characters seemed less dimensional. It followed the plot of the Secret Garden so closely in the second half of the book that it became pretty predictable for those familiar with Burnett's work. Like The Secret Garden, it is a story of growth ahd rebirth, but Philip and his father did not seem as fleshed out and compelling as Roo. The behavior of the doctor and Mr. Fanshaw seemed too angry and doctinaire for today's modern times. The ending seemed a bit abrupt to me. I am not a big fan of modernizing classics, so that colors some of my feelings. Children will be drawn in by the beginning and may enjoy the atmospherics and some characters more than I did. I really like Ellen Potter's work, but I would prefer that she create new stories like The Kneebone Boy. 3.5 stars For ages 9 to 12, The Secret Garden, gardens, contemporary, mystery, grief, growth, rivers, nature, and fans of Ellen Potter.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Preddy

    With a captivating beginning, we find Roo hiding and know something terrible has happened to her family. Up to now, Roo has lived a rough life with a father who doesn’t know how to properly care for her. By age 12 she has learned how to guard herself. Wild, self-preserving Roo is sent to live with a previously unknown, wealthy uncle and she moves to his island, called Cough Rock, where there are very few inhabitants. Although it is a family home, there is some curiosity and eeriness about it for With a captivating beginning, we find Roo hiding and know something terrible has happened to her family. Up to now, Roo has lived a rough life with a father who doesn’t know how to properly care for her. By age 12 she has learned how to guard herself. Wild, self-preserving Roo is sent to live with a previously unknown, wealthy uncle and she moves to his island, called Cough Rock, where there are very few inhabitants. Although it is a family home, there is some curiosity and eeriness about it formerly being a hospital for children. Roo quickly feels the wrongness in the home itself as well as from the cold and distant uncle. There are mysterious sounds in the house and the Faigne, a fay sea people inhabiting the river. As she unravels the mystery of the Faigne and the house/hospital, she also unravels her uncle’s sad story. Soon she discovers a door hiding in a wall, which takes her to a secret cousin and hidden garden Roo is desperate to revive and love. As she makes friends with Jack, an urchin living on the river, and her cousin, they work together on the garden. As they bring themselves and the garden to life, Roo finally finds a place she feels she belongs and can call home. The sense of living and being bring the inanimate and organic alive with character. Roo’s ability to stay motionless and quiet for long periods, waiting and watching the world ignore her and come back to life will make readers want to try such stillness and world-watching themselves. The author brings a poetic imagery and vividness to Roo’s world. Potter has written a modernized tribute to the classic novel, The Secret Garden.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wrighty

    This is the kind of book that made me fall in love with reading as a child. It has the simple bits of magic and mystery that took me away to a different place. The characters are flawed and a bit tragic. The reader gets to peel back the layers to see where they came from and who they really are. Roo is a little girl that I had sympathy for but she doesn't play the role of a victim. Despite her incredibly difficult childhood she is determined to survive. When she is taken to live with an uncle sh This is the kind of book that made me fall in love with reading as a child. It has the simple bits of magic and mystery that took me away to a different place. The characters are flawed and a bit tragic. The reader gets to peel back the layers to see where they came from and who they really are. Roo is a little girl that I had sympathy for but she doesn't play the role of a victim. Despite her incredibly difficult childhood she is determined to survive. When she is taken to live with an uncle she had never met her curiosity about her unusual new home trumps her fears. As she begins to explore she discovers that the new people in her life have their own ghosts to deal with. Her uncle is complicated and she rarely sees him but she does begin to discover his secrets. She also meets two boys who she forms quit different bonds with that are cemented by their common interest in a hidden garden. Nature is an important influence in this story. The beauty of the island is described so well and it's what begins to comfort a withdrawn little girl. And as she begins to nurture plants and animals she begins to heal herself. The mysteries give her purpose but the island gives her hope. My own visit was cut short as the end of the story came too soon. This book isn't just for the young but also the young at heart. It was a delightful read and I look forward to more from this author. Thank you to Macmillan for the ARC for me to review. www.ellenpotter.com

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    I absolutely adore retellings of classic tales, and Potter's reimagining of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden is no exception. Although she didn't make too many changes to the basic plot, she did manage to make the story her own. Much of that comes from the changes in Roo's character and background. She has the stubbornness and touchiness of Mary, but, in her case, this is not born of indolence or having been spoiled. Instead, it seems that she was largely neglected and not given enough I absolutely adore retellings of classic tales, and Potter's reimagining of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden is no exception. Although she didn't make too many changes to the basic plot, she did manage to make the story her own. Much of that comes from the changes in Roo's character and background. She has the stubbornness and touchiness of Mary, but, in her case, this is not born of indolence or having been spoiled. Instead, it seems that she was largely neglected and not given enough care. As a result, she trusts only herself and tries to avoid others. I also loved Roo's connection to nature. She is much like Jack, in the fact that she understands nature better than people. She connects to the earth and to wild creatures, since they're so much like she is. The little black squirrel sounds like the cutest. Why don't I have wild animal friends? Anyway, if you love The Secret Garden, prepare to take another trip into a magic garden that will restore those who enter it. If anything, The Humming Room is shorter than the original, so it's a very quick, satisfying read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    I'm impressed that Potter was able to do a novel based so closely on The Secret Garden that I still enjoyed. I mean, TSG is one of my all-time favorites, and I've read it more than a dozen times (seriously). I'm a hard one to impress. What I liked: Potter kept the "feel" of the original amazingly well, despite its modern setting. Some of the details she worked in were quite fun to discover (like the snake in the beginning, the hat on Mrs. Metzger's/Ms. Valentine's lap in the train, the tame squir I'm impressed that Potter was able to do a novel based so closely on The Secret Garden that I still enjoyed. I mean, TSG is one of my all-time favorites, and I've read it more than a dozen times (seriously). I'm a hard one to impress. What I liked: Potter kept the "feel" of the original amazingly well, despite its modern setting. Some of the details she worked in were quite fun to discover (like the snake in the beginning, the hat on Mrs. Metzger's/Ms. Valentine's lap in the train, the tame squirrel, etc.). She also managed to situate the new house on an island with an air very similar to the wildness of the English moors. (both house and island) What I didn't like as much (but obviously forgave enough to still give it 4 stars): We don't see much of Martha's/Violet's mom AT ALL (and Mrs. Sowersby is one of my faves in TSG). The wrap-up feels short to me, once Phillip (Colin's character) discovers the garden. I also missed Ben Weatherstaff's character from the original. All in all, a fun read, but to me--it's never going to be the same. I think it's a great read all in all, and I think contemporary kids will enjoy it.

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