The Secret of Goldenrod

Jane O'Reilly (Author)
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Product Details

Carolrhoda Books (R)
Publish Date
October 01, 2016
5.7 X 1.5 X 8.4 inches | 1.3 pounds

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About the Author

Jane O'Reilly is the author of the acclaimed middle grade novels, The Secret of Goldenrod and The Notations of Cooper Cameron. She is the recipient of a McKnight Fellowship in Screenwriting and also holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The youngest of five children, she grew up in an old house, enjoyed her early summers traveling the USA and Mexico on family road trips, and spent her teenage summers in the North Woods at the cabin her grandfather built. Curious about nearly everything, Jane and her stories are inspired by small towns, old houses and the universal need for hope. Although born and raised in Minnesota, Jane and her husband, John, and dog, Poppy, now call Des Moines, Iowa, home.


"A young girl and her father, both white, move into a run-down mansion that is reputed to be haunted.When almost-11-year-old Trina Maxwell's father takes a job to restore a decrepit Queen Anne mansion known as Goldenrod on the outskirts of New Royal, Iowa (population 397), Trina isn't thrilled. It's another move in a lifetime of moves since her mother left nearly eight years ago, and besides, the house is spooky. Things don't get better when Trina enters the fifth grade at the new school, since her classmates have known one another since kindergarten and don't seem to welcome a newcomer--especially one that lives at Goldenrod. When Trina discovers an old dollhouse and a surprising doll in the mansion's turret room, she begins to research the first occupants of the house, which include a little girl, Annie, the original owner of the doll. In a pitch-perfect, third-person narration, Trina discovers why the townspeople fear Goldenrod, even as her own fears subside when she realizes the house is trying to tell her something. O'Reilly's multilayered story is superbly presented. Loss, acceptance, coming together to accomplish goals, facing fears, and overcoming rejection are all bathed in the golden light that is the richness of living. This solid middle-grade book shines with wisdom and compassion."--starred, Kirkus Reviews


"'It was a hopeless old house, sitting in the middle of a yellow sea like a dried-up island.' That's fifth-grader Trina's assessment of her father's latest renovation project, a crumbling and possibly haunted Queen Anne style mansion. Trina and Poppo have just made yet another cross-country move, this time from New Mexico to New Royal, Iowa, population 397. Poppo restores houses while Trina's mother travels the world, keeping in touch through postcards. But Trina has had her fill of moving and being the new kid in school, and she dreams of finding a friend. After she discovers an antique talking doll, Augustine--who tells Trina that she has lost her family, is waiting for a prince, and is lonely, too--Trina attempts to locate Augustine's missing family members in the house, a quest that drives O'Reilly gentle debut. O'Reilly gives Trina a rich inner life, and evocative descriptions paint a vivid picture of her new home. This is a memorable and complex tale about negotiating change and coming into one's own."--Publishers Weekly


"New Royal, Iowa--population of 397--is convinced that Goldenrod, the abandoned Victorian mansion outside of town, is haunted because of its tragic history. Almost-11-year-old Trina Maxell is convinced, as well, when she and her handyman father arrive with a year-long contract to make the structure habitable again. However, to Trina, a year in a house is as close to having a permanent home as she's ever had. Poking around the upstairs rooms, she discovers a dollhouse and Augustine, a century-old talking porcelain doll, who becomes her first friend, confidante, and mentor. Trina's desire to learn the history of Goldenrod helps her uncover the source of the legends and understand what Goldenrod has been trying to tell her. Trina vows to make things right again for Augustine, Goldenrod, New Royal, and Annie, the little girl who lived in Goldenrod in 1912. O'Reilly's debut integrates elements of spooky other-worldliness with beautiful writing to create a complex story of loss, longing, and hope that is populated by endearing characters. This wistful and superlative coming-of-age story highlights the discovery of friendship and belonging in an otherwise chaotic world. Perfect for readers who crave contemporary stories that feel like a classic, this is one to be re-read and enjoyed many times over."--starred, Booklist


"When Trina's dad, Poppo, agrees to renovate Goldenrod, an abandoned mansion in New Royal, IA, over the course of a year, Trina hopes they can make a home for themselves. However, her new life doesn't go quite as planned. Trina finds out Poppo forgot to enroll her in school, a local bully targets her once she does get there, and a creepy presence at the house makes Trina wonder if Goldenrod is really a haunted magnet of bad luck. When Trina unexpectedly finds Augustine, a talking antique porcelain doll, her luck turns and life in New Royal may just become what she was hoping for. Though the slow start may dissuade some, those who keep reading will be rewarded by this unique twist on the traditional haunted house story. VERDICT: A strong additional purchase for those who enjoyed Jennifer Chambliss Bertman's Book Scavenger and Tess Hilmo's With a Name Like Love."--School Library Journal