Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Winterhouse

29540876Guterson, Ben. Winterhouse
January 2nd 2018 by Christy Ottaviano Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Poor Elizabeth Somers. Her parents died when she was four, and she has been raised by her uncaring Aunt Purdy and Uncle Burlap. When they decide to take a vacation over Christmas, she is packed off to Winterhouse with $3 and a grocery bag of clothing. There's little explanation, but she is glad to have a few books with her, and the hotel is not as bad as she has feared. Aside from the creepy booksellers, the Hiems, who warn her that the proprietor, Norbridge Falls, is not what he seems, and is not to be trusted. Norbridge seems quite nice, and looks out for Elizabeth, and also shows her the tremendous library at Winterhouse. Elizabeth also meets Freddy, whose parents send him to the hotel while they travel, and the two discover that they both like anagrams, word ladders, and other puzzles.
Strengths: This definitely had a Lemony Snicket sort of vibe, and the parallels between this and Greenglass House are definitely very strong. Also had shades of Seible's Trouble with Twins. Well paced, with plenty of twists and intriguing characters, this certainly has a lot of fine qualities to recommend it. Bonus points for the Hiems' name-- it means "winter" in Latin! (hiems, hiemis, f.)
Weaknesses: With the addition of the puzzles, students who have trouble following the plot of mysteries may struggle with this one.
What I really think: I'm not sure if my students will be willing to invest in a trilogy of these, but I may have to buy this first book because I love the cover and the premise so much. This year, I have had to buy Ivy and Bean,  Junie B. Jones and Melvin Beederman books for my very reluctant sixth graders. I would love to have students who would enjoy this book, but right now, I'm struggling to get them to read more than 50 pages. At least this has some pictures, which they all seem to require!


All weakness in this novel I am going to blame on the fact that I read this during extreme attack of Middle Age Ennui, and was immediately annoyed by "Uncle Burlap". Really? Burlap? And the dead parents. I loved Winterhouse itself, and the idea of the library, and just about the time I was settling into those lovely thoughts, Elizabeth and Freddy started with decoding messages, of which I am not a fan. That, and Elizabeth's favorite book is Anne of Green Gables, she claims to have read Swallows and Amazons, and she ends the book reading The Wind in the Willows. Really? Isn't that a tad precocious? I'm done with Anne, even I hadn't read Swallows and Amazons until it appeared on a list of 100 Best Middle Grade Books, and in 15 years, I haven't been able to get a single student to read The Wind in the Willows. So, a bit "bah, humbug" here.
Ms. Yingling

8 comments:

  1. I have a copy of Swallows and Amazons at home and may read it over spring break when I'd like some nice relaxing reading.Are MG kids a litle old for Wind in the Willows?

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    1. Thematically, WitW is young. Stylistically, it's hard and boring by today's standards. May weed copy this year while chanting to myself "This is not an archive!"

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  2. Seems like we need more shorter books for reluctant reader 6th graders...

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    1. Sad, but true. 150-200 pages in a 14-16 point font with a few pictures scattered throughout. Lots of things blowing up or at least happening! I just bought the first eight Battle Bugs books and am curious to see how they do.

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    2. "Battle Bugs"--sounds like a great series for the boys! PS--sounds like you've picked on the slogan from Awful Library Books--"Hoarding (even for classics like WitW) is not Collection Development."

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  3. Thanks for the candid review, Ms. Yingling. I appreciate the thoughtful reflections. I taught middle school myself for several years and know how difficult it can be to interest kids in books, particularly longer ones...so, bravo to you for the work you are doing! The books Elizabeth references in WINTERHOUSE? Favorites of mine, for sure, but still hoping the very old-fashioned SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS might find a fresh audience someday! Well, just wanted to reach out and thank you for the kind notice of my book, both here and on Goodreads. Regards--Ben

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  4. Thank you for not being offended by candid! I do try to be constructive. Perhaps if there were bigger lakes near my school, Swallows and Amazons would do better!

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  5. I just picked up a copy of this book but I'm meta-reading it for my road narrative project. I'm reading it as a comparison to Ghosts of Greenglass House.

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