Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Valor

Carter, Ally. The Winterbourne Home for Vengeance and Valor
March 3rd 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

April lives in an orphanage, and on a class trip to the Winterbourne Museum, she has a disastrous experience and ends up in the hospital after causing a fire that takes out much of the collection. She doesn't get in trouble, however; she is spirited away from the hospital by Ms. Nelson and told that she will live at the Winterbourne house with fellow orphans Colin, Sadie, Tim and Violet. There is a big problem with the Winterbourne estate. Gabriel, who was orphaned when his parents' boat capsized and he was the only survivor, has been missing for ten years. An uncle, Evert, seeks to inherit, but Gabriel has not yet been declared dead. In the meantime, the house is run by the butler, Smithers, and is home to this small group of children who have tangential relationships with the family. April herself has a key with the Winterbourne crest on a necklace that is the only thing she has left from her mother, who abandoned her. Because she is naturally curious and impulsive, April takes it upon herself to investigate the house to try to find a box with treasure that her key will open. She doesn't find it, but she does find a mysterious man living in a hidden room in the mansion. Will she and the other children be able to solve the mystery, despite the many dangers, and settle the matter of the Winterbourne inheritance once and for all? (I don't want to spoil this mystery!)
Strengths: April is a feisty, engaging character with a mystery she doesn't know how to begin to solve. The other students, especially the inventive Sadie, are fun as well. The Winterbourne house is one that readers will wish they could run off to in order to explore its secret passageways, and the mystery is nicely convoluted, but not too difficult to follow. I suspect there will be other books in the series, since this ended with suspicious characters with swords running off into the night.
Weaknesses: There seems to be a trend towards having characters who are orphaned, in foster care, and then approached by some sort of secret organization to work. I know that it helps to get parents out of the way so that middle grade characters can have adventures, but since I do have students who are in foster care, I wish that the portrayal of the system were more realistic.
What I really think: For the sake of my own collection, I wish this were more like I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, (the very first ARC I ever saw, and one of my most favorite books!) instead of more like Lemony Snicket or the similarly named Winterhouse, but Carter is a fantastic writer, and this would span the elementary-middle school age range instead of the middle school-high school one. I love that the cover incorporates plaid uniforms similar to the ones on the cover of the Gallagher Girls books. (Which are still available in library bindings through Follett.)

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