Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: The Visconti House

The Visconti House
by Elsbeth Edgar
Candlewick Press, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

After reading a review over at Charlotte's Library, I decided that I needed to read this book ASAP. And I loved it.  This is the kind of story I like best, and the writing is great too. Here's the blurb from the book:

Fourteen-year-old Laura Horton doesn't quite fit in.  She lives in a crumbling mansion that everyone calls "the haunted house," and she has more in common with her parents' eccentric artist friends than with the girls at school.  So when loner Leon Murphy moves in next door, Laura avoids him at first; she doesn't need anything else different or weird in her life.  But when Laura becomes obsessed with uncovering the history of her house -- the Visconti House--she finds that Leon understands her need to know what happened to the lonely Italian gentleman who built it.  Together, Laura and Leon begin to unearth the mansion's history, a history of elegant dances, thwarted love, and secret rooms.  In their quest for the truth, the unlikely pair forms a deep friendship.  But will their friendship, sparked by a shared interest in the past, survive in the present?

The story takes place in Australia, a fact that seems unimportant at first, the experiences of Laura and Leon could happen almost anywhere.  Being different is a topic that many kids can relate to as well as adults.  But the location becomes more significant when Laura starts investigating the history of the house.  there are several things that I especially liked about this book.  First, I love the fact that the author seamlessly integrates the idea that history is not boring and can indeed be fascinating, especially when one gets down to the individual level. Many of the kids that I work with at school think history is boring.  Another thing I really liked was the gradual development of friendship between Laura and Leon.  Like most friendships, it has its ups and downs.  I highly recommend this book, especially as a read-a-loud.

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