- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
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 ...
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.
Read the Q&A with Ellen Potter from Publisher’s Weekly on writing a novel inspired by The Secret Garden
By Sally Lodge
Jan 12, 2011
In 2003, Ellen Potter made a lively splash onto the scene with her middle-grade novel Olivia Kidney. She went on to write three sequels about that enchantingly quirky heroine, as well as two other novels, Slob and The Kneebone Boy. Most recently, the author tapped into memories of her own childhood reading to pen The Humming Room, a novel inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Set in a mansion—a former children’s tuberculosis sanitarium—on an island in the St. Lawrence River, the story centers on Roo, a prickly orphan who goes to live with her aloof uncle, and befriends Phillip, his troubled son, and Jack, a local boy. Potter talks about how this novel took shape.
Is it safe to assume that The Secret Garden was an important book to you as a child?
Obviously, I loved the novel as a kid. What really struck me was that when I went back to read it as an adult, the story not only held up, but I discovered elements in it I had never noticed before. It felt very fresh, and surprisingly layered in a way I hadn’t realized as a child.
Was that an unusual reaction for you to have to a book you revisit from your childhood?
Yes, very unusual for me. A lot of times when I go back to books I loved when I was young I don’t quite understand what it was that I loved about them. Rereading The Secret Garden, I felt a lot like Mary feels when she visits her garden. She’s always finding something new popping up—something delightful or surprising. I’ve reread The Secret Garden every year as an adult. I have a battered copy on my bookshelf—it’s really quite a mess! The experience of reading the novel keeps deepening for me.
How did you tackle the actual writing of The Humming Room?
The idea of writing a contemporary version of The Secret Garden was very exciting to me, yet at the same time it was very, very intimidating. I knew I needed to follow the original story line—or that I wanted to—but I knew I had to make it different enough that it would be worthwhile for people to read my novel. My editor, Jean Feiwel, was great and kept encouraging me to have at it, to go anywhere that I felt I had to go with it.
Did you set parameters for yourself, in terms of working within Burnett’s original storyline?
I actually kept trying to swerve away from the original story, but it wasn’t easy. There’s something about The Secret Garden that kept me rooted in the original storyline, which was difficult for me. I don’t plot my novels—I move along with my characters. For the first time I had a story already set out for me, which was very challenging.
Would you say that you heard Burnett’s voice in your head as you wrote?
Yes. I feel I know The Secret Garden so well that I could kind of riff on it like a jazz musician. I know it in my core, and could take the essence and work with that. Still, I love the original novel so much that it was psychologically a very tough book to write. Though I think whenever I finish a book I always say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written!
You obviously did branch out from the original, with the setting to begin with. Why choose an island on the St. Lawrence?
I went back and forth on the setting, actually. At first I thought of perhaps setting it in New York City, but that didn’t work. At the time I began writing the novel I was living in the Thousand Islands, and was spending a lot of time on the St. Lawrence. The river is so very beautiful, and it struck me as similar in some ways to the moor in The Secret Garden.
Similar in what ways?
The St. Lawrence seems a vast expanse of gray, the way the moor is a vast expanse of purple. But if you stop and look closely at the river, it’s incredibly changeable and moody—and sometimes violent. But it’s always surprising. And it occurred to me that this would be a perfect setting for The Humming Room. On top of that, there are quite a few mansions in the Thousand Islands with ghost stories attached to them. It’s quite incredible.
So that inspired your mansion setting, with mysterious humming noises and an abandoned garden hidden within it?
Yes, and I decided to make the mansion a defunct sanitarium, because I wanted there to be a ghostly presence, an eerie echo, in the house. One of the things I loved in The Secret Garden, and tried to put in my novel, was that there was a consciousness to everything—the house, the moor, and the garden. They are really characters themselves. In my novel, I wanted to give this same consciousness and self-awareness to the mansion, the river, and the garden, to give them personalities.
How did you set out to make Roo, Jack, and Phillip distinct from—and have a more modern sensibility than—Burnett’s characters?
One thing I remember about Mary and Dickon is that there was a little squeak of romance in their relationship, but it was so understated. As a child, I remember wanting more romance in the book. So I brought out a bit more romance between Roo and Jack. It’s a young romance and entirely innocent, but it’s there. With Phillip, my Colin character, I tried at first to make his ailment physical, like Colin’s, but that didn’t work, so I decided to give Phillip a more mental affliction, which worked better for the story. And like Mary, Roo starts off as a not very likable character—she’s a pretty tough customer. That’s unusual for a heroine, and I loved that about The Secret Garden. But before long Mary begins to blossom, and that happens to Roo as well.
Have you tackled another writing project since finishing The Humming Room?
Yes. I’m working on a series for younger readers, for Feiwel and Friends. It’s directed at boys—though I think girls will like it, too. I have a son who is seven, and I’ve been noticing for a while how few very engaging books there are for boys around that age. They somehow get the short shrift. Boys at that age who are big readers are reading books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which deal with middle-school issues that seven-year-olds are not yet concerned about. So I’m trying to write something along those lines, but more appropriate for younger kids. As I write, I’ve been trying out scenes on my son. I wait for his giggle, and if it comes, I keep that part in the book. Luckily, it’s a method that seems to be working quite well!
—Publisher’s Weekly, January 2012
“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
* “Inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, 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
Praise for THE KNEEBONE BOY:
* “The story is fresh, funny and surprising. A quirky charmer.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“With a dark, witty absurdity suggestive of Lemony Snicket, Potter draws readers into this compelling mystery-adventure about a missing mother. . . . Often laugh-out-loud funny, this tale quietly solves a deeper mystery: how to heal the hearts of this immensely likable trio.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hilarious and heartbreaking, wild and down-to-earth. . . . The combination of fantasy and realism makes a compelling story, and young people will relate easily to the characters’ struggles. As the author tells the reader, ‘All great adventures have moments that are really crap.’ ” —Booklist
Praise for Ellen Potter:
“Potter has written a pitch-perfect novel. . . . Filled with sarcasm and lots of humor, the story is filled with intriguing characters, believable and unique. A must-have for middle school libraries everywhere.” —Kids Lit on Slob
“Dashes of Dahl, snippets of Snicket, and heaps of Horvath humor abound, and like its prequel, this can be read on many levels. . . . Sparkling writing, madcap characters, and serious themes contribute to a read-aloud that adults will enjoy as much as the children.” —Booklist on Olivia Kidney Stops for No One
Posted March 5, 2012
This is an excellent mystery for middle grade children, boys and girls alike. It is a mystery, quite tense and scary at times, filled with all the excitement of a ghost story on a lonely island. It is a story of friendship, of loss and renewal, of coming of age, of the beginnings of romance. It is a story of healing. There is magic and fantasy and sadness and joy. It is a lovely little book.
Roo is the star. She lives a sad little life in a trailer with her dad and his girlfriend. When they are murdered she is shipped off to a foster home and then to an uncle who lives on a remote, lonely island on the St. Lawrence River, Cough Rock, to live in a forbidding-looking mansion, formerly a children’s hospital, thus its name. It was sanitarium for children with TB. There she discovers family secrets, hidden rooms with a hidden cousin, abandoned rooms with hidden treasures, a ring from a former patient, and secret passages, tunnels to basements and hidden gardens, and then, she discovers the Faigne, what some people think is a mythical boy who lives on the river, but he turns out to be quite real to Roo.
Her uncle is cold and distant, mourns the loss of his wife by rejecting everyone. She discovers her cousin, living in a remote room of the mansion, prone to fits, mourning the far too premature loss of his mother and a father who rejects him. Violet, a young, happy governess and all purpose helper, cook, etc. and Ms Valentine, a stern, not very warm assistant to her uncle, keep the house running smoothly, preparing meals and caring for all of them. In their own way, they try to bring order to the house, the rumors, the madness and loneliness that surrounds the family.
Roo is a loner; she doesn’t much like people. She is small for her age, fits into tiny places and loves to hide away in secret spots. She loves living things and can hear the sound of the earth…the humming of things growing. She is stubborn, brave and reckless at times. She can do mean things, without understanding the consequences, or without caring, because she doesn’t feel cared for by others. She likes to steal because she has so little of her own. She likes to make things grow, so she planted glass animals and plants and snakes under the trailer in which she lived with her dad and his girlfriend, before their murder. Her neighbor would leave things out for her to take, when she looked away, because she understood that Roo would not accept anything from her. Roo rejects people because they reject her, due to her strangeness, poverty and belligerence.
The characters are interesting and well developed. Roo Fanshaw never knew her mom. Her uncle is the double of her father. The Faigne, Jack, seems to have no home or relatives. Phillip, her cousin, mourns the loss of his mother and feels her presence in the house. He is subject to fits and tantrums. He is wasting away from neglect. He pines for his mother and his absent father. Roo rescues Phillip from his madness, befriends the faigne, Jack, tames her uncle and brings love back into the mansion.
This is a wonderful little book, based on "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 3, 2012
I was expecting a 300+ page book o the humming room but instead they give you 127 pages of the humming room and then the last 200 some pages is the secret garden!!!! The humming room was a really good book i just wish it was longer and that they mentioned it was only 127 pages and the rest was the secret garden. This is just a heads up. If you get the book its great but dont expect all 300+ pages to be the humming room. Because its not. It 2 books in one.
8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 28, 2012
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.
7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2012
Every now and then I pick up a middle grade book. I haven't been blown away by any in a long time. (It's hard when my basis for middle grade comparison is Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl and Erin Hunter's Warriors series.) But they're nice when I want a short, quick romp through a book.
The Humming Room provided just that; full of interesting characters and a fun setting, it managed to distract me for the quick hour it took to read. (At 182 pages, it's not very long.) It was cute and fun and, really, everything it should have been.
I did have problems with Roo's character at the beginning, only because she licks a glass snake and I couldn't think of anybody really who did that and it seemed kind of out of character for Roo because she may have been wild but she was also smart and smart people just don't go around licking things, ya know? But besides that one moment, I really liked her and her adoration of nature.
The other characters were interesting and fun, I suppose; I didn't really have any sort of fondness for any of them outside of Roo and, perhaps, Jack. (You'll find out who he is if you read it. Spoiler free!)
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2012
Posted July 16, 2013
Posted October 24, 2012
I thought it was longer but only 127 pages of the humming room.... no ghosts.... no scariness..... no nothing. And 200+ pages of the secret garden which i already have. Good book but just wasnt satistfying.
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 26, 2012
I thought it was 300+ pages of the humming room it was mostly the secret garden. I already own the secret garden. It was soooooo not worth my money
4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2013
Posted May 8, 2013
Posted September 21, 2012
Posted March 27, 2012
The humming room is a great book. Im in 4th grade and my friend and i have read it and agree its a good book. Even though i suggest reading The Secret Garden first. Also even though i like the Secret Garden better.
3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 11, 2013
This book was so amazing that girl she was strong she had a very sad life I dont think I would be abel to be like her in that tipe of situation
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2013
Posted June 7, 2013
Posted January 29, 2013
They had this at my school book fair and i just got it! I havent read it yet but it loits kond of creepy!okes really good. I love the cover art in color!
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I thought that this book was very interesting, charming, witty, as well as all of the characters in it. Overall this is a book that I would go back and read again. I think it would be best for kids 9-13.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 11, 2013
This book is mysterious and spooky. There is so many twists and turns. I don't want to be a spoiler but here's the thing Roo's dad and his girlfriend die and Roo could care less so she hides under her trailer where she won't get caught but the nieghboor told the sheriff were she was and got caught...... i wish i could tell you more but then there is no point to read the book i promise you will love the book and if you have good taste in books even there romantic books you will like this book.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 12, 2013
Posted May 13, 2013