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The Secret Life of a Boarding School Brat

The Secret Life of a Boarding School Brat

5.0 2
by Amy Gordon

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Despite the cheeky title, Gordon's (When JFK Was My Father) New England boarding school novel, set in 1965, follows fairly tame conventions. Discontented seventh-grader Lydia Rice narrates via a sometimes self-conscious diary format. Lydia hates her new school, resents her parents' divorce (and her father's remarriage) and mourns her grandmother's death. Roaming the halls at night, she meets Howie, the goodhearted, wise night watchman and maintenance worker, aka the Silly Wizard, who dares her to solve the puzzle within a school mural. Thanks to lively pacing and appealing if improbable alumnae characters, many readers will be caught up in the mystery and how Lydia connects the clues, though they will likely figure out who's who before Lydia. Gordon's execution, however, is uneven. Aside from a few references to popular music, the novel does not particularly evoke the period setting. Some of Lydia and her friends' antics seem a bit young for their age (e.g., using a very easy-to-crack secret code), while other pranks seem formulaic (raiding the mean teacher's classroom closet). Readers may also not hold the Silly Wizard stories Howie writes and gives to Lydia in the high literary esteem the characters do. Lydia's most painful problems, her sense of rejection by her parents, aren't convincingly explored or resolved, so that while Lydia makes strides and offers some clever observations, the mystery in the mural proves more intriguing than the heroine herself. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Lydia Rice is an insomniac. As a new student at the Pocket School for Girls, she cannot seem to fit into the long-established school routine. Away from home for the first time, she longs for her mother, her newlywed father, and her dear late grandmother. She stays up until all hours writing in her diary, prowling around the empty school halls snooping in teachers' desks, and theorizing on the contents of their locked closets. One night while prowling, Lydia meets Howie, the school maintenance man. Rather than reprimanding her for sneaking around, Howie, who calls himself a Silly Wizard, sets Lydia to the task of finding out what the letters mean in an old school painting: ABCDE WHEEL. If she can solve this mystery, she can be a Silly Wizard too. With a new friend, and a task at hand, Lydia begins to involve herself in the school. By writing in her diary, Lydia unknowingly mourns the end of her parents' marriage and her grandmother's death, and she begins to create another life with new and renewed relationships. Through a creative plot twist near the end, the Silly Wizard story line and Lydia's personal story merge. Although slow at times, the novel comes together in the end. Readers will love deciphering the code that Lydia and her friends create, but for those not as patient, a code key is included. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Holiday House, 252p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Jessica Mize
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Lydia Rice attends the Florence T. Pocket Boarding School. Her parents are divorced, her beloved grandmother has recently died, and she does not like her new school. She has difficulty making friends until she meets Howie, the maintenance man/night watchman, during one of her nocturnal wanderings through the school. He teaches her to be a silly wizard and sets up a task for her: to identify the characters in a mural painted in the hallway at the turn of the century. By unraveling this mystery, Lydia makes a series of discoveries about her family and herself. Throughout the novel, Howie gives her stories of magic and transformation that he has written. His advice to her is to be true to herself. This is a gentle story told in diary form of a young girl coming to terms with her struggles. Readers will identify with Lydia's difficulty adjusting to the changes and losses in her life, and, like her, will appreciate the healing power of a good friend.-Elizabeth Fernandez, Brunswick Middle School, Greenwich, CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lydia Rice is an unhappy and reluctant seventh grader at Miss Pocket's New England boarding school. Her parents' divorce, Mom's move back to Minnesota, and Dad's marriage to April have necessitated the arrangement. Written as a diary in the notebook that her beloved grandmother gave her before her death, Lydia's story unfolds as a year of self-discovery and personal growth. When the school handyman, who is also a would-be novelist, sets her the task of uncovering the names of the students in an old-time photograph, Lydia's inquiries lead to a better knowledge of her own family and grandmother, one of the girls in the picture. Time spent with Dad-and-April, the way in which Lydia always refers to them, also helps her come to terms with the divorce. While set in 1965, there is no clear picture of the times through music or movies. A sit-in up in a tree and an easy-to-decipher message code lend some excitement and the details about boarding school will be of interest to some readers. While overall a pleasant read, Gordon ultimately adds little to the canon of the coming-of-age story. A supplemental purchase. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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The Secret Life of a Boarding School Brat 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
BookWormLinzy More than 1 year ago
this was a very interesting book and was fun to read... I'm in 8th grade and i read this book for a free-time reading which we had to write a book review for. unfortunately i wasn't able to post mine in school so i am posting it now. this was an awesome story and i would recommend it to any girl!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful! I didn't want it to end. This book made my day.