Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

Hardcover: 288 pages
Release Date: Febuary 28, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Pre-Order the Book: Amazon
Shelf It: Goodreads | Shelfari
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.
One of my favorite stories as a kid was The Secret Garden. It was also one of the few movies we owned. On VHS, mind you. Classic, I know. I would watch it over and over again and even took it to school with me in fifth grade to show my class. Also, the movie had Maggie Smith who is a goddess, but that's irrelevant here.

I said all that to say this, The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a novel inspired by The Secret Garden. I don't know how fine the line between "inspired by" and "retelling" is, but this felt very similar to the original. The story followed the same major plot points as TSG. The characters were different and the setting/garden story was changed to fit this interpretation, but I wouldn't consider this just "inspired by" The Secret Garden.

Roo's life changes when her parents die suddenly. She is sent to live with her introverted Uncle at his island home, a converted Children's Hospital that was closed in the 1960s. Other than the maids and her Uncle, Roo is the only other person living in the house. Or so she was told. The walls hide secrets. All she has to do to uncover them is follow the humming.

I found this story very fun and interesting. Aside from its closeness to The Secret Garden, I really enjoyed the unique characters Ellen created. The house in itself is a character. It hides secrets and hosts a lot of the mystery throughout the story. A lot of the myth and legends that were used to support the plot were all created specifically for this book and I thought that was awesome. There's enough stories that draw ideas from actual myth that most originality has been watered down. While this was not quite a unique story, Ellen's re-interpretation of The Secret Garden was completely original and fun.

The Humming Room reminded me of all the things I loved to do as a kid. Explore new places, talk to animals, hide in the smallest of spaces. It was like a glimpse of the past and it made me miss those simple childhood pleasures.

If you're a fan of The Secret Garden, this is one MG book you will want to read. It's cute, fun, mysterious, and such a quick read. The Humming Room is the type of book you would give someone who is skeptical about what is good Middle Grade fiction. Reading this makes me want to read more of Ellen Potter's books. Also, I want to rewatch The Secret Garden now.

The Humming Room is a fresh take on a classic story with secrets all its own.


  1. awesome review! Ive been eyeing this book lately and yes I do love The Secret Garden. So will definitely have to read it one day. :)


  2. VHS was so long ago. Will have to check this book out. Great review! 

  3. You just made me even MORE excited to read this one. (I wasn't quite sure that was possible, but you managed it.)