Book Review: The Romeo and Juliet Code

The Romeo and Juliet Code
Phoebe Stone
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy

Felicity Bathburn Budwig arrives at her father's family home in Maine in the fall of 1940 only to discover that there is tension between her father and his family. She determines not to be influenced by this strange new family, including her Uncle Gideon, Auntie Miami, and The Gram. But as she gets to know them, she realizes that there is more to her family than she ever imagined. The situation gets more complex when she discovers Derek, an adopted boy, who is recovering from polio. When her Uncle Gideon starts receiving letters from Portugal that she is positive come from her parents, who are supposed to be in London. But he won't let her read them. The mystery grows when she and Derek discover that the letters are written in code. She is determined to discover what the letters mean and why her new found family harbors bad feelings toward her parents, Danny and Winnie.

The book is well-written and does a nice job of creating a rather unique setting. I could picture the house on a bluff overlooking the ocean. I could almost smell the ocean breeze. However, I did have a problem with some of the story elements. First, the plot is not very compelling, I had to push myself to finish the book. Although there are a couple of interesting plot twists that help keep the plot going, I'm not sure most kids would bother finishing the book. Second, while the characters are unique enough to be diverting, I didn't really come to care about them a great deal. I only vaguely cared about what happened to them. The book is an interesting read, but not the kind of book that pulls you in.

An additional note, I have a problem with the cover.  As has already been discussed on other blogs, the cover is very misleading.  First, the shoes highlighted on the cover do not come from the time period the story takes place in. Second, the relationship of Felicity and Derek is a subplot, not really a main part of the story.

For additional thoughts on the book check here and here.


  1. I just got this out of the library--I'm wondering now what I'll make of it. Although I do know that I already agree about the cover....


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