At night, 13-year-old Siena has dreams about a house overlooking the ocean, as well as wartime imagery including plane crashes and sinking ships; scarier still, visions of the past are bleeding into Siena’s waking life. As a result, Siena has alienated her friends and taken to collecting abandoned objects. Meanwhile, Siena’s three-year-old brother, Lucca, hasn’t spoken in a year and a half, and her parents move the family from Brooklyn to Maine (into a house that resembles the one from Siena’s dreams) in hopes that both children’s behavior will return to normal. But the grand old house on Ocean Drive feels haunted, and although Siena makes new friends, her attention is drawn back to her worries and the discovery that her visions and dreams are tied to Sarah, a girl who lived in the house during WWII. Questions of how Sarah is connected to Siena and whether Lucca will speak again swirl throughout this insightful, delicate tale. LaFleur (Eight Keys) offers an enticing blend of history, mystery, and family, perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)
Siena's ability to see glimpses of the past juxtaposed on the present intensifies when she moves to a house in Maine that is oddly familiar. Her parents are focused on 3-year-old Lucca, who has stopped speaking. Siena feels responsible for Lucca's silence and spends lots of time playing with him and hoping that he will talk. She also collects all sorts of found items that she deems abandoned. In Maine, she sees and hears members of the family who lived in her house during World War II. When she writes with an old pen found in the house, it produces not her handwriting, but that of Sarah, a girl from the earlier period. Even more astonishing, she seems to actually enter Sarah's mind, seeing and feeling everything along with her. She also is able to share Sarah's brother Joshua's war experiences, which send him home psychologically damaged. Through a compassionate act of courage, Siena's gift ultimately provides satisfying solutions for Sarah's family and her own. LaFleur deftly handles the tale's many layers, never allowing readers to get lost. Events and characters are fully developed and are completely believable, without any sense of contrivance. Tender and brave, Siena is a heroine to be admired. Past meets present and all is well in this lovely and magical tale. (Fantasy. 9-12)
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 17, 2013:
“LaFleur (Eight Keys) offers an enticing blend of history, mystery, and family, perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2013:
"Tender and brave, Siena is a heroine to be admired... All is well in this lovely and magical tale."
Gr 5–8—Thirteen-year-old Siena moves from New York City to a Maine coastal town before the start of eighth grade. Unlike most teens, she doesn't mind the change. Her strange visions make it difficult to establish close friendships, and she's hoping a new school will allow her to shed her reputation as a weirdo. Like her parents, Siena also hopes the new environment will encourage her mute three-year-old brother to begin speaking again. Siena starts to uncover oddities about their new home: she sees and hears flashes from the past, and an old pen begins writing its own story. She becomes engrossed in discovering all she can about the house's former inhabitants, a family living there during World War II. Although her weirdness doesn't disappear, Siena is able to form friendships and even a budding romance as she continues to investigate the house's secrets. Her ability to see, interact with, and even alter the past eventually provides her with the insight to help her brother regain his desire to speak. Although Siena's propensity for strange visions has the potential to create a creepy, suspenseful mood, the plot, especially in the first half of the novel, is more deliberate than gripping. The introduction to World War II battlefield trauma lends an interesting historical aspect. Recommend this one to readers willing to stay with a slow beginning for a satisfying conclusion.—Lindsay Cesari, Baldwinsville School District, NY