Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Publication: October 13, 2020 by Candlewick Press
Synopsis: A riveting middle-grade fantasy about sibling bonds, enchanted houses, and encroaching wildness, lyrically told in eerily beautiful prose
The grass grew taller than the house itself, surrounding it on all sides. It stuffed the keyholes and scraped against the roof. It shook the walls and made paintings shiver.
Seven years ago, the Ballastian sisters’ parents left them in the magical Straygarden Place, a house surrounded by tall silver grass and floating trees. They left behind a warning saying never to leave the house or go into the grass. “Wait for us,” the note read. “Sleep darkly.” Ever since then, the house itself has taken care of Winnow, Mayhap, and Pavonine–feeding them, clothing them, even keeping them company–while the girls have waited and grown up and played a guessing game: Think of an animal, think of a place. Think of a person, think of a face. Until one day, when the eldest, fourteen-year-old Winnow, does the unthinkable and goes outside into the grass, and everything twelve-year-old Mayhap thought she knew about her home, her family, and even herself starts to unravel. With luscious, vivid prose, poet and author Hayley Chewins transports readers to a house where beloved little dogs crawl into their owners’ minds to sleep, sick girls turn silver, and anything can be stolen–even laughter and silence.
This was a very sweet, quick read. The story had a pretty fast pace, which at times I didn’t care for, but it held my attention easily. Some things felt like they were moving too quickly, particularly the main plot-line. A plot twist or new conflict would be introduced and resolved almost immediately.
Even with the frequency and quickness of the plot twists, some of them were pretty unexpected. I found myself fairly shocked by a few of them. I can honestly say that many of the revelations were never even a possibility I thought of.
We don’t see much from the parents, so I’m not sure how I should feel about them. I do think their changed feelings toward Mayhap in the end were rather sudden with little to no thought behind the change of heart. As for the sisters, I couldn’t really connect with any of them until the very end, but I still loved them. Their bond was wholesome and strong, which I admired.
I loved the magical aspect of this book. It was pretty complex for a middle grade novel, at least comparing it to the novels I read when I was younger. I think it would be very interesting to read about a magical system similar to this one in more of a young adult style. The droonhounds were probably my favorite part of the magic.
This really was such a cute book. I found the family theme to be very wholesome and sweet. I loved the relationship between the girls, as well as their connection to the house. It was simple, but it was still poetic.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via the publisher and JeanBookNerd tours. This did not influence my opinion in any way.
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Meet the Author
Hayley Chewins grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in a house so full of books that she learnt to read by accident. The second eldest of four daughters, she sang incessantly as a child — so incessantly, in fact, that she was sent to lessons twice a week in the interests of household peace. Hayley studied classical voice for a year before switching to a degree in English Literature and Italian. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a house full of art and music and colour, with her husband and a very small poodle. She believes in two things above all else: the magic of love, and the heroism of sisters. Her debut novel, THE TURNAWAY GIRLS, was a Kirkus Best Book and was featured on the Amelia Bloomer List of Best Feminist Books for Young Readers. Her second book, THE SISTERS OF STRAYGARDEN PLACE, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in September 2020.