The Secret Room

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in New York City in 1903, this novel explores the sentiments of two high-spirited children whose family has moved from the country after receiving a large inheritance. Even though they live in a fancier house, Katharine and Freddie Outwater are unhappy about some of the changes in their lives. While Father contends with his law career and Mother shops for clothes and attends parties, the children are left under the all-too-critical eye of their humorless nurse, Miss Pritt. Whenever possible, they sneak off to their secret retreat, a hidden room they have furnished with some of their parents' belongings. When the servants begin to notice that the items are missing, the entire family experiences public humiliation. Readers may be more interested in details about turn-of-the-century society than the characters' conflicts. The two protagonists come off as a bit self-centered; and despite her liberal views on emancipation, Mrs. Outwater succumbs rather easily to a code of behavior required of a woman of her position. Ultimately, Yektai's message about the privileged class is ironic if not mixed. Some may be disappointed that the family does not experience a greater awakening concerning the superficiality of their new lifestyle. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-- Katherine Outwater, nine, and her family have moved from the country into a Manhattan townhouse they've inherited from a rich uncle. In 1903, their new wealth and social standing bring unfamiliar accoutrements and responsibilities: a full staff of servants, a newfangled automobile, and endless social engagements for the parents that necessitate hiring a nanny. Miss Pritt is a sour-faced disciplinarian who frowns on the children's independence and creativity. Katherine and her older brother Freddie discover a secret room that quickly becomes their refuge; when they furnish it with items borrowed from the household, parents and staff are in turmoil over the missing objects. This old-fashioned family story (no death, divorce, drugs, disease, or disasters) is of the type popular before the advent of problem novels. Katherine and Freddie's adventures are the focus; the setting and issues of the time (e.g., women's suffrage) are in the background rather than being central to the story. There is no serious consideration of the consequences of ``borrowing'' valuable items and letting the blame fall where it may. Major conflicts are resolved, and a happily-ever-after ending seems assured. Average fare for unsophisticated readers. --Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Ilene Cooper
Katharine Outwater doesn't like New York City. It's 1903, and she and her family have moved from a farmhouse outside Albany to a spacious home in the city, where her father hopes to join a prestigious law firm. Used to doing as she pleases, Katharine is particularly upset when Miss Pruitt, a governess, arrives to tame her and her brothers. Katharine and her older brother, Freddie, are able to fight back when they discover a secret room they can hide in, which they furnish with everything from dishes to pets (a big mistake). This harks back to tales of an earlier era when a cruel governess would come to impose her will on unsuspecting children. But while Miss Pruitt borders on the stereotypical, the rest of the cast is fairly well-rounded, especially Mrs. Outwater, who appreciates fun and freedom despite Miss Pruitt's disapproving glare. This could have used some trimming, but it will find fans. An old-fashioned story with happy endings all around.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531086063
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years

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