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Author: Fitzgerald, Laura Marx
In 1929 New York City, twelve-year-old housemaid Martha O'Doyle suspects that a wealthy recluse may be trying to communicate with the outside world through the paintings on her gallery walls.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 6.10
Points: 10.0 Quiz: 182434
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 6.40
Points: 15.0 Quiz: 68973
Kirkus Reviews (04/01/16)
School Library Journal (05/01/16)
Booklist (+) (05/01/16)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (09/16)
The Hornbook (00/07/16)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 05/01/2016 Gr 5–8—At 100 years old, Martha O'Doyle decides to record the story of the most eventful six-month period in her life, a period that taught her to be the hero of her own story. Expelled from catechism class in 1928 for questioning the story of Adam and Eve, 12-year-old Martha takes a job as a maid in the Sewell mansion, where her mother is housekeeper. Mr. Sewell is a prominent newspaper magnate, and his supposedly "mad" wife Rose is kept under lock and key in her room with her beloved paintings. Martha is incredibly curious about Rose Sewell, particularly after she escapes her room one night and nearly sets fire to the mansion. She suspects Rose is trying to relay messages through the paintings she chooses to send down to the gallery, and Martha is determined to discover the truth about Rose's "madness." With a narrative voice in Martha that is equal parts pragmatic and wry, Fitzgerald weaves an engaging mystery set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties. Rose's plight challenges readers to think about gender inequity during the time period, and they will be further encouraged by references to stories such as that of Proserpina and Jupiter. Current events of the day are incorporated into the plot, and an author's note describes how the story grew from newspaper headlines, biographies, and memoirs. - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 05/01/2016 *Starred Review* Fitzgerald (Under the Egg, 2014) gives the art mystery a new twist in her latest novel. She takes readers back to New York City in the late 1920s, where inquisitive, 12-year-old Martha O’Doyle joins her mother as a maid in the Sewell mansion. While much of the house gleams with impressive finery, it is also noteworthy for what cannot be seen, namely, an art collection and the impetuous Mrs. Sewell. Rumored to be mad, Mrs. Sewell is confined to her bedroom along with her precious paintings, of which she sends a select few to be hung in the downstairs gallery. The pictures pique Martha’s curiosity, and she suspects that they contain a message from her quarantined mistress. Determined to unravel their meaning, Martha starts snooping and discovers the paintings are but one of the Sewell mansion’s many secrets. This lively and inventive mystery successfully incorporates history, art, and literary classics. Readers will catch glimpses of vaudeville acts, challenges facing immigrants, Prohibition, Hoover’s presidential campaign, and the stock market crash as they follow Martha, who proves a funny and tenacious protagonist, through her investigation. While not all questions are answered by story’s end, readers will certainly be swept up by Martha’s pluck and the mystery’s many layers. A concluding author Q&A offers insight into the history and art peppering the novel’s pages. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2016 Martha hates Catholic school, but at thirteen she wasn’t ready to be kicked out and to have to get a job. That’s what happens, though, and Martha becomes a maid too in the strange and joyless household where her mother has worked for years. As the daughter of a working-class Irish immigrant in 1928 New York, Martha’s prospects are limited and she’s fortunate to have a good job, but the house is full of weird art, a wife who never leaves her room, and odd secrets. Luckily, Martha’s not easily daunted and she is determined to fix everything, including the problem of the locked-up wife who clearly doesn’t want to be as “sheltered” as her husband says she does. Readers familiar with yellow journalism, the stock market in the late 1920s, or musicians and celebrities of this era will enjoy the numerous period references. Even for those who don’t know a thing about the ’20s, though, Martha is a scrappy, amiable narrator, and readers will be just as invested as she is in seeing that all the wrongs in this household are finally righted. An extensive author’s note provides historical context and art information. AS - Copyright 2016 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.