Season of Secrets

( 1 )


The next novel from Sally Nicholls, author of the critically acclaimed WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER

Molly and Hannah have just lost their mother, and while Dad "figures things out", they're sent to stay with their grandparents in a quiet country town. Everything is different: there are only ten kids in their entire school; they have to walk home by themselves every day; and a phone call from Dad just isn't the same as a hug. In fact, they're not even ...

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Season of Secrets

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The next novel from Sally Nicholls, author of the critically acclaimed WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER

Molly and Hannah have just lost their mother, and while Dad "figures things out", they're sent to stay with their grandparents in a quiet country town. Everything is different: there are only ten kids in their entire school; they have to walk home by themselves every day; and a phone call from Dad just isn't the same as a hug. In fact, they're not even sure when, or if, their dad will be back for them. (cont'd)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Death and birth, then and now, bad and good: Molly is encountering transition for the first time, and the loss of childhood's certainties isn't easy. Molly's mother has just died. Her father has sent her and her older sister, Hannah, to live at Grandma and Grandpa's odd half-house, half-shop, "until gets things Sorted Out. Whenever that is." Caught in an autumn storm, Molly is terrified by a horned huntsman and worried about the bloodied man she finds after the hunt. No one believes her, but after Molly finds the face of "her man" carved in the pillar of an old church, Molly's teacher tells her about the Oak King and the Holly King, who do battle eternally as the seasons change. Nicholls's second novel, following her critically acclaimed Ways to Live Forever and its theme of terminal illness, is an exploration of surviving. Molly's wishes don't come true, and the cycles of nature do not stop just because she cries. But Molly learns, too, that no change is an absolute, and if she can't stop it, she can yet make something of it. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
In a kaleidoscope of short, haunting scenes, Sally Nichols leads readers through the season of sadness following the untimely death of Molly and Hannah's mother. Sent to live with their grandparents as their father sinks ever-deeper into his own incapacitating grief, older-sister Hannah reacts to their changed lives with spasms of unpredictable rage, while younger sister, Molly, the book's sensitive, dreamy narrator, finds herself having inexplicable encounters with a mysterious stranger: a hunted man "with leaves sticking out of his face and hair," who looks "bright and wild, like an old god or goblin in a fairy tale." Is he real, or is he the product of Molly's own inchoate longings—or both? Reminiscent of David Almond's award-winning Skellig, another tale of an encounter with a seemingly supernatural, yet also somehow flesh-and-blood being as a strategy for coping with familial loss, this novel is marked by its wrenching characterizations, the beauty of its language, and the power of the truth that it ultimately delivers: "if you want the summer, the winter must die, and if you want the winter, the summer must die too." A powerful tale for thoughtful readers who are willing to live and read on the cusp between the mythical and the real. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Molly and her sister, Hannah, live with their grandparents in Northumberland, on the border between England and Scotland. Their mother has died and their father, unable to cope, has left them with his parents temporarily, though it is becoming more of a permanent situation, much to the girls' dismay. A ray of hope shows itself to Molly with the appearance of "my man," the Oak King or Green Man, the spring and summer figure in the life cycles of seasons. A mythical figure—as is his nemesis, the Holly King or Beast Man, ruler of fall and winter months—he is for Molly all too real. She witnesses as he perishes in the face of the Beast Man, only to reemerge as an unruly, adolescent, Puck-like figure when spring returns. As seasons change, so do Molly and her family members. Her father slowly recovers and rediscovers that his girls need him, and Molly begins making friends at school. She still takes comfort in "her man," and through him sees the never-ending struggles of life. At first somewhat slow, the book proves to be captivating as Molly's fantasy/coping skills introduce her to a life cycle that is painful, yet part of a continuum, and not solely the unbearable loss she initially experiences. For thoughtful readers, this tale is a gem. British lingo may be a bit unfamiliar to American children, but it in no way hinders understanding the dialogue in this meaningful story.—Tracy Karbel, Chicago Public Library
Kirkus Reviews

Imagination and reality blur as a young English girl confronts the cycle of life following her mother's untimely death. While their grieving father tries to "[get] things Sorted Out," Molly and her older sister adjust to living over their grandparents' shop in a country village where they attend a single-room school far from their friends. When Molly encounters a mysterious stranger one autumn night, she's not sure he's real. Throughout the season, as the nameless stranger appears and disappears, Molly realizes he resembles the Green Man, an ancient pagan god of rebirth she's learned about in school. Molly's sadness deepens until a climatic winter solstice when her stranger vanishes, a new year commences and life gradually improves. In a first-person, present-tense voice, Molly quietly explores her complex relationships with her depressed father, her angry sister, her frustrated grandparents and the enigmatic stranger. Written in gently flowing prose, the plot appropriately transitions from autumn into summer as Molly emerges from grief to acceptance and hope. A poignant story of healing tinged with mystery. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545218252
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,441,785
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally Nicholls completed an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University (UK). She wrote her first novel, WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER, when she was twenty-three, and it received three starred reviews and was named an ALA Notable Book. Sally Nicholls lives in London.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2011


    This is a very interesting, thought provoking book for the upper elementary grades. While I enjoyed it, I feel it will take a very thoughtful, philosophical child to really enjoy this book. It starts off a bit slow, but improves immensely as you continue to read. The author's descriptions in this book bring the characters, both real and mythical, to life. The author gives you a glimpse into the pain a family experiences and the grief that the family shares. It is really a touching story. I think it makes a great read-a-loud selection as well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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