4.7 27
by Lesley M. M. Blume

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“Brilliant, unusual writing.”—Chicago Tribune

On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tennyson Fontaine and her sister, Hattie, play endless games of hide-and-seek and make up fantastical stories about the latest adventures of their wild dog, Jos. But when their mother doesn’t come home and their father sets off to find her, the sisters

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“Brilliant, unusual writing.”—Chicago Tribune

On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tennyson Fontaine and her sister, Hattie, play endless games of hide-and-seek and make up fantastical stories about the latest adventures of their wild dog, Jos. But when their mother doesn’t come home and their father sets off to find her, the sisters are whisked away to Aigredoux, the once-grand plantation of their ancestors, now in ruin.

Caught in a strange web of time, dreams, and history, Tennyson comes up with a plan to shine light on Aigredoux’s past and bring her mother home. But like so many plans, Tennyson’s has unexpected consequences. . . .

Lesley M. M. Blume weaves a heartbreakingly evocative story, steeped in Southern lore, about a child’s struggle to come to terms with her family’s dark past.

A Book Sense Children’s Spring Pick
A 2008
Kirkus Reviews Top Pick for Reading Groups

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, January 7, 2008:
“The writing offers its own hypnotic montage of poetic images, turning stereotypes into archetypes.”

Review, The New York Times Book Review, March 16, 2008:
“Aigredoux itself, with its towering columns and ‘Spanish moss…looking like ghost clothes that had been flung up there to dry,’ comes to life beautifully.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly

Propelled by eccentric characters and mysterious events, Blume's (Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters) lush novel set during the Depression portrays a Southern family haunted by its ancestors' sins. When her mother runs away from their remote home, Innisfree, to become a writer, 11-year-old Tennyson and her younger sister are sent to Aigredoux, the dangerously dilapidated estate now owned by their father's sister, Henrietta, and her husband, Uncle Twigs, aristocratic Southerners on the brink of bankruptcy; their father, who has broken with Henrietta, plans to find their mother. Soon Tennyson begins dreaming of disturbing, real-life scenes that occurred at Aigredoux when it was a grand Louisiana plantation and also during the Civil War, and she realizes that the history that Henrietta is so proud of is entwined with slavery and complicated acts of betrayal. Inspired, Tennyson fashions stories out of the dreams and sends them to the publisher her mother most reveres; she is certain that she can infiltrate her mother's "dream" of being a writer in order to call her back. Despite the plot's strong suggestion of Southern gothic and of early Truman Capote, the writing offers its own hypnotic montage of poetic images, turning stereotypes into archetypes. The abruptness and abstraction of the ending, which leaves Tennyson with less immediate happiness than she might deserve, may disappoint the target audience; older readers are likelier to appreciate the bittersweet aftertaste. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 10 to 14.

There are rules for the games that Tennyson and her sister Hattie play at Innisfree, and one of the most important is that all games end at dusk. You just never know what might happen in the woods when the sun goes down. That is how Tennyson knows something is wrong when her mother is not home by the time it gets dark. Her father confirms her worst fears when he tells her he is taking them all to Aigredoux. At her father's mysterious family home, Hattie and Tennyson become the pet projects of Aunt Henrietta, who is attempting to lure rich suitors to save Aigredoux. But Tennyson has her own plans, inspired by strange dreams that take her back in time to witness what happened at Aigredoux during the Civil War. Tennyson tries to use the dreams to reach out to her mother and reunite her family, but will she be able to find her? The lively narrative and complex plot line will appeal to readers (especially girls) at the higher end of the reading range. Reviewer: Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger

School Library Journal

Gr 6-8- Emery has dumped his two daughters at his family's ghostly, crumbling ancestral plantation home with his peculiar sister and brother-in-law who are most unhappy to host the girls while he searches for his wife, who has left the family. The house itself seems to respond to the needs and fears of the sisters and begins to slowly draw 11-year-old Tennyson into its legacy through dreams of its past grandeurs and sorrows. The story is set during the Great Depression when the South is still reeling from the economic devastation of the Civil War. Tennyson is desperate to find her mother and hatches a scheme to reach her by having articles published in her mother's favorite literary magazine. Blume has an impressive command of the English language, but the story is too contrived. The manuscripts Tennyson sends to the magazine are written on old sheet music, so it's highly unlikely that a distinguished literary magazine would even consider such work. The characters run the gamut of Southern stereotypes, from the cruel white master and the silver-stealing slaves who appear in Tennyson's dreams to the aunt and uncle who are trying to get restitution from the federal government for losses incurred during the Civil War and a faithful retainer who is a descendant of the family's slaves. It's unfortunate that the author's considerable writing talent lacks a stronger plot.-Nancy Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Innisfree Strange things had happened at Innisfree before. In fact, strange was usually normal at Innisfree. But what had happened the night before was a new sort of strange. A frightening, unsettling sort of strange, the sort of strange that nags at you when you try not to think about it and flickers behind your eyelids when you try to go to bed at night and won’t let the sleep come.

Sadie hadn’t come home.

The game of hide-and-seek had ended hours before, at dusk, as usual. At Innisfree, games of hide-and-seek took place in the tangled woods surrounding the shack on all sides, and they lasted all day. You could hide anywhere, practically. Up in a tree; behind a thorny bush; in a hollowed, burnt-out stump. You could even bury yourself in the dirt and leaves and wait there for hours, breathing in the musty smell.

But there were rules too. Rule number one: you couldn’t hide in the river. The river might look cool and inviting, but it was filled with tricks and temptations and secret dark swirls that would grab a little girl around her ankles and pull her down to the bottom.

“Look down, but don’t lean over too far,” Emery had warned his girls one day as he paddled them along the river currents in the rowboat. “Just far enough to catch a glimpse.”

A glimpse of what, Tennyson and Hattie had asked their father.

“The little girls at the bottom of the river,” he answered. “That’s what the Mississippi does. It tempts you in, and then it catches you. It loves you and doesn’t want to let you go. So it pulls you down to the bottom and keeps you there. If you look down, you’ll see the faces of the little girls who didn’t listen.”

“I see one,” cried Hattie, who was only five at the time, pointing down at the water. “She’s staring up at me! Oh, can’t we reach in and save her?”

Emery laughed. “That’s just your reflection,” he told her.

And how was Hattie to know? There were no mirrors at Innisfree. No pictures, no paintings, no way to see what you looked like, except when others described you back to yourself. The only reflections at Innisfree were words.

So, that was one of the rules. That the Mississippi was hungry, and would resort to all sorts of intrigues to trap you in the dark, silty stillness at the bottom for eternity. That’s why no one was allowed to hide in the river.

Another rule: the game was over at dusk. Always. Because you never know what could happen to you in the woods after dark. So when the sun began to sink down low over the river and the air around you started to turn purple-gray and the lightning bugs hung like fairy lights in the haze, it was time to go home. You would come out of hiding. You would pad barefoot through the trees, slapping mosquitoes away from your ankles, until you saw the damp yellow light of the oil lamp on the porch of Innisfree.

Everyone knew these rules. Which is why Tennyson and Hattie grew worried when their mother Sadie hadn’t come home at sunset.

“What if the river caught her,” Hattie whimpered. “What if she’s stuck down there at the bottom, with all of the little girls who didn’t listen?”

Emery sat on the stairs of the front porch and stared out into the black woods. The right side of his sweaty face glistened in the light of the lamp. He didn’t say anything.

“How will we get her out of the river?” pressed Hattie, who was eight years old now.

“I don’t know, baby,” Emery said.

Tennyson, who was eleven, sat cross-legged on the far end of the porch, just outside the ring of yellow light, in the sticky black shadows. She watched her father, who was rocking ever so slightly, as though lulling an invisible baby to sleep. His lips moved and he was saying soundless words. But he wasn’t talking to Hattie. And he wasn’t talking to Tennyson. He was having a conversation with someone who wasn’t there.

“She’s not in the river,” Tennyson said. “And this isn’t a game. She’s gone away, hasn’t she.”

Emery stood up and brought the girls inside. “Go to sleep,” he told them, and turned off the oil lamp. “I’ll be back in the morning.”

Moths danced on the screen of the girls’ bedroom window. It was too hot for sheets. It was too hot for nightgowns even. It was so quiet that Tennyson could hear her own heart pounding.

“Tennyson,” whispered Hattie, even though there was no one there to scold her for being awake so late at night. “Tennyson.”

“What is it?”

“I can’t sleep. Let’s go on the swing. Papa’ll never know. He won’t be back till the morning. He said so.”

“All right.”

They turned the key in the oil lamp in the main room, and warm, reassuring light washed over them. This reminded Tennyson of wetting the bed, when you would wake up to a feeling of odd warm comfort and terrified guilt at the same time.

A thick rope, knotted at the bottom, dangled from a rafter above. A different family would have had a dining room table in the middle of that room. But the Fontaine family had a rope swing instead. Tennyson let Hattie take the first turn. Her little sister’s body looked like a fine white fish, clinging to the rope and sailing through the air.

“Push me!” shouted Hattie. Tennyson gave her an extra-hard shove and cringed as her sister hit the far wall with a thud. Several sheets of paper that had been tacked to the wall fluttered to the ground.

“Sorry,” said Tennyson.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Hattie from the air. “One more bruise won’t make a difference.” She was right. Blue-purple bruises and scratches covered her legs and Tennyson’s too. The bottoms of their feet were as thick as hides from running barefoot in the woods all the time.

Tennyson tacked the yellowing papers back up onto the wall. Poems and stories had been written on these papers. Sadie, their mother, was a poet and a story writer, and she had written them. Usually the room felt noisy with all of these words shouting from the papers on the walls. But tonight, a tomblike quietness filled the room and throbbed in the corners. Tennyson looked at the poems and stories and missed her mother. But she knew that Emery missed Sadie even more. Her father was a strong man. Sometimes it seemed to his daughters that he didn’t need food or even water, but he needed Sadie. Even Tennyson knew that, and she felt terrible for him.

The girls took turns on the swing until Tennyson’s head began to swim with tiredness. They had used up almost all of the oil in the lamp, and the room was hot, like somebody’s breath. The black began to drain from the sky in the east, and still Emery didn’t come home.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Tennyson 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best i read in years. The author really keeps you hooked and you dont want to put the book down. The characters personalities are so diverse that you just keep wanting to know what will happen with them. The mix of historical fiction and a mystery is an intersting move for the author but i think the mixter of the two makes the book intersing and fascinating all at the same time. It is a great book and if you havent read it you should.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
The book ¿Tennyson¿ made me curious in many ways. Just looking at the cover of the book I had so many ideas of what the book may be about. One of my first ideas was somebody turning up missing in a family or somebody dying in a family. Turns out that one of my predictions was right. The mom and wife of this family of four turned up missing just one random day and her family does not know why. This book also spoke to me in a way of telling me how depression on families can really turn lifestyles and attitudes around. This family already had barely any money and once the wife and mom of this family has gone missing the depression just increases and the family becomes desperately in need for help. The depression of this family eventually leads up to the two kids of this family living in a town called Aigredoux with their aunt Henrietta who becomes their care taker for a long period of time once their dad goes off to search for their mom. This book also inspired me to read more books with this type of story and to also be more interested in more books with a historical setting that this book provided. In summary I would recommend this book to anyone who has a great imagination or anyone who loves to imagine things. Cougar_H
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters in this book were Tennyson who is 11 years old with her young sister Hattie and parents Emery and Sadie. It took place in there old house called Innisfree and later to a place called Aigredoux. This book is about the mother Sadie runs away and Emery the father can not live with out her and goes to find her so the girls in up in a place named Aigredoux ,an old plantation this place was were Emery used to live as a child. The house takes Tennyson to the past were she finds out about he great ant Louvenia, the room she and Hattie stay in till there dad comes to get them, and how they lost there money. So Tennyson decide to write a story on the house. I loved it!!! You will read it and never forget how exciting it was. You will read it over and over again!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why are you guys basically chatting? It is rude to other people so you should quit it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I write to and i have a charicter name jak starkiller speises rare huryican powers able to lift crush and throw things with his mind able to choke someone with a crushing movement i hope you use him
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dude henry wazzup and weres jen10
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well hello, if it isn't my friend Megumi who lives two houses down from mine. Jen 10... I should have realized earlier... it's you! *tackle-glomp* SO YOU WERE TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT HAVING FANS YOU LUCKY DUCKIE... well I guess I've also become one of those deranged fangirls now xD so keep writing Megumi! And when you become rich and famous, don't forget about us little people! Meep out!! ~Your crazeh fangirl, Meep :3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My characters name is Maddie Ryder, 14 year old Gwen's magic intern. She is a freshman in high school and captain of her cheerleading squad. She has dark black hair that goes down to her waist (usually pulled back in a ponytail) and dark brown eyes. She specializes in life and water magic, but is being trained in other fields by Gwen. You guys could meet as you are driving down a highway and seeing her fight a monster with water from a nearby lake. Her spell of choice is Aqua Untdormio which helps her move water to her will. Thanks and I hope you will use Maddie in the future. =)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whats so bad about that?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lot. -Henry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hope there is going to be another one of this book. I would like to read the 2nd book
VENTOAST More than 1 year ago
lol troll face derp derp good book:}
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an AMAZING book! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is always great no matter how much its read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awsome book best book I ever read this time i was write i jugde the book by it's cool cover andd it turned out great
Mackenzie Towers More than 1 year ago
Grat book it keeps u interested in wuts gonna happen next
veronica kenny More than 1 year ago
Only that it needs a different ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Island101 More than 1 year ago
This book is a tale of a poor family whos mom goes missing one night. Emery(the father) goes to find her and leaves Tennyson and her younger sister Hattie at his old home in Louisiana, Aigredoux. Their Aunt Henrietta tries to turn Tennyson into the person who keeps the family fortune by marrying rich. Throughout this adventure Tennyson communicates to her mom by writing to her through a magazine, which infuriates her mom, Sattie. Satie's mother has been a writer whos dream has been to publish. She has always been jealous of Tennyson's gift. While Tennyson is at Aigredoux, she dreams the past and finds out secrets of the mansion, including a secret room...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago