Palace Beautiful

Palace Beautiful

4.8 19
by Sarah DeFord Williams

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When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads "Palace Beautiful" and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu

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When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads "Palace Beautiful" and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu epidemic of 1918. The journal ends with a tragedy that has a scary parallel to Sadie and Zuzu's lives, and the girls become obsessed with finding out what happened to Helen after the journal ends. Did she survive the flu? Is she still alive somewhere? Or could her ghost be lurking in the nearby graveyard?

Sarah DeFord Williams has created a gripping read that covers two time periods, many fantastic characters, and a can't-put-it-down ending, all with delightful, extraordinary prose.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
When Sadie and Zuzu's family moves from Texas to their grandmother's house in Salt Lake City, they explore an attic cubby (marked "Palace Beautiful") and discover a diary written by a young girl who lived in the house during the flu epidemic of 1918. The diary becomes a magnet for the sisters and their new friend from next door, Bella (for Belladonna), who wears black and is mistreated by her mother. As the three girls read the diary aloud by candlelight, the hardships described in the journal become a parallel story about a baby brother dying, Sadie's pregnant stepmother and family relationships. The modern plot line is dragged down by two devices: Sadie's conviction that each person came into the world in a different, fanciful way and her tiresome penchant for characterizing colors that label the chapters-Wide-Awake Red, Bubbly-Churning Green. The only textual marker rising from the mid-'80s time frame is the stepmother's cosmetic parties, where she tells everyone they look like Jackie O., a reference that will likely mystify modern readers. The journal entries, which are the heart of the story, override the distractions. (Fiction. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
Soon after 13-year-old Sadie arrives with her family at their new home in 1985 Salt Lake City, she meets a ghost-obsessed girl who calls herself Bella, and discovers an attic nook named Palace Beautiful. Sadie loves painting and colors—especially naming them (chapters are titled “cave-dwelling white” and “spontaneous-combustion scarlet”). Sadie’s mother died giving birth to her younger sister, Zuzu, and Sadie harbors anger about that, as well as fear that her pregnant stepmother, Sherrie, may suffer a similar fate. Sadie, Bella, and Zuzu find a journal in Palace Beautiful written by Helen, a girl their age whose family was stricken with influenza in 1918, and whose fears parallel Sadie’s. Debut author Williams’s vivid prose brings both Sadie and Helen’s worlds to life, and narrator Sadie is a particularly—perhaps overly—precocious observer (“Dad found Sherrie a year and a half ago. She came from Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Dad saw her working at the makeup counter and they fell in love”). Through moments of heartache and joy, Sadie’s strong, contemplative spirit shines through, as does the thrill of discovering a secret place of one’s one. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Laura J. Brown
Sadie is 13 years old and very creative. Her mother has died, her father has remarried and her stepmother is expecting their first child. Her younger sister Zuzu tends to be a drama queen and her father has moved the family to his childhood home to be near her grandmother and to start a new life in a familiar place. It is a lot to adjust to. Sadie misses Texas, but little by little learns that Utah has a lot to offer. She is happy to be near her grandmother, and her next-door neighbor turns out to be a very strange and interesting girl who calls herself Bella. Together they discover a secret room in Sadie's new home and in that room they discover a journal. They realize that many years before a young girl about Sadie's age lived in the house and that the secret room was her special place. Sadie, Zuzu, and Bella decide to read the journal. They discover a mystery that they decide to solve. Palace Beautiful is a delightful story that has unexpected surprises that keep the reader engaged and wanting more. Reviewer: Laura J. Brown
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—In the mid-1980s, 13-year-old Sadie Brooks and her younger, tantrum-prone sister, Zuzu, arrive at their new house in Salt Lake City with their father and pregnant stepmother. Kristin (aka Belladonna Desolation, or Bella) lives with her demanding mother and feels like an "extra"—a child her mother didn't want. She and Sadie become close while investigating the possibilities of ghosts in the nearby graveyard. When the girls find a crawl space in Sadie's attic, they are amazed to also discover a doorway with the words "Palace Beautiful" painted over it. Inside the small space is a journal, and when Zuzu bursts in at the same moment they find it, the team of two becomes a gang of three. They take turns reading the diary, which dates from 1918 and was written by a girl named Helen White. She describes the very room in which the three girls are sitting; her family, including a baby brother who is not expected to survive; and the town's battle with deadly influenza. The children decide to try to track Helen down, and their heartfelt quest results in an unforgettably sweet conclusion. Williams does a super job with the characters in this beautifully written book, and it is satisfying to see how they develop.—Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 Years

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Palace Beautiful 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book keeps you on the edge of your seat. When you first pick it up you cant stop reading it!!Its jast an all around GREAT book! READ IT!!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an UCBA( Utah Choice Book Award), and it was stellar. I read it in October and loved it.4th and 5th grade students are required to read this book, as well as sixth graders. If there was a chioce of 10 stars that is how much I would rate it. No more, no less. Fret no more about buying this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book, the main characters are 3 girls who find a diary from the past and a secret attic that turns into a Palace Beautiful.... MUST READ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for young girls, around age 12, but adults would also enjoy it. I love the characters, especially the nice stepmother and the neighbor girl who always dresses in black. I can picture this as required middle school reading because of it's engaging plot, it's historical relevance and it's message that encourages young people who have difficulties to have courage, that things usually turn out OK in the long term. I love it. It's a book that sticks with you for a long time after you finish reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Palace Beautiful is a moving and fun story set in Salt Lake City in both the 1980s and the 1910s. The main character, Sadie, is engaging--someone you like to listen to and spend time with. When she moves to her new home, she quickly becomes friends with the girl next door, named Belladonna Desolation. Sadie finds a journal in the attic--and then her and Bella must figure out what happened to the owner of the journal decades before. The story has compelling characters, a realistic and engaging setting, and is just all in all a compelling read. As an adult, it's a book that's I'm going to return to read again and again; it's also a book that I'll definitely be sharing with my younger sisters (who are teenagers) and their friends. It's a coming of age novel--a book about figuring out who you are and dealing with hard things. SLC is intrinsic to the setting, but the book's not about Mormons--they might be mentioned once. It is a book about time--about ghost stories, tradition, and how history influences us.
Christy_Lenzi More than 1 year ago
I read an advanced reader's copy of this book and found Sadie's voice charming and her story at turns heart-wrenching and heart-warming. Curiously, the very things that the Kirkus review mentioned as negative aspects struck me as particularly unique and endearing qualities in Sadie. I enjoyed her way of looking at the world and thought her creation stories and fanciful colors added depth and beauty. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly love this book. I actually have a hard copy of it and i got it over by salt lake city. :) This book will forever be in my heart. I love it and it is just one of my favorite books of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever if u like mysterious books this is the book for u
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just love it! Its really adventures
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NessaLuv More than 1 year ago
Ms. Williams has aptly combined historical fiction with contemporary themes that tug at heartstrings and make grownups remember our anxieties and triumphs and friendships of childhood. Her skills in using tangible descriptive phrases, along with flowing narrative, make me want to eat this book. I would recommend it to any teacher wanting middle-grade students to get exposed to historical fiction, and to any parent whose child might be going through grief issues or new-kid-on-the-block anxiety. Or to anyone who is tired of their child reading shallow plots with boring adjectives and two-dimensional characters. I, as a rule, avoid books set in Salt Lake City. But she uses the local culture as a very solid and real backdrop for the historical part of the story. For the fellow LDS-squeamish, I can assure that there is no proselytizing nor glorifying. Only the simple loving support of a community to be had during hard times.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have this book in paperback. I havent finished it yet. Yet it still sees pretty good. I would get it if you are wondering