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The Valley of Secrets
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Keating's rich, low voiceAgravelly and whisper-tinged in all the right placesAhooks readers into discovering just what secrets lie inside the magnificent gates of the ancient Cornwall estate known as Lansbury Hall. Wrapped in an evocative cloak of suspense, Hussey's debut novel stars an orphan boy named Stephen who learns he has inherited the long-overgrown Lansbury Hall from a great-uncle he never knew he had. Stephen's exploration of his new, mysterious surroundings (and the creepy discovery that someone else has been living there all along) form the bulk of this meaty tale. The lad's detailed interest in botany will be a bonus for any green-thumbed listeners. Keating's understated British accent and smooth delivery go far in making this a great selection to sink one's ears into. Ages 8-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Gr 6 Up-An ambitious blend of fantasy, mystery, and ecological adventure. Stephen Lansbury, raised in orphanages in London, is informed by an ancient lawyer, Albert Postlethwaite (who could have marched straight out of Dickens), that he has inherited his great-uncle Theodore's country house. As the teen explores his new home, he feels that he is being watched. Discovering his great-uncle's journals leads to some answers. Theo and his friend Bertie Postlethwaite explored the Amazon jungle for two years beginning in 1911. In a story-within-a-story, Stephen reads of their friendship with the Amazon Indians, who are being destroyed along with their lands by rubber barons and missionaries who bring disease. They bring home with them a young Amazon Indian, as well as various plants and fantastic creatures. Stephen soon meets Murra-yari and the Bugwomps. Murra-yari teaches Stephen to be self-sufficient. When he dies of malaria, Stephen feels all alone-a feeling that is assuaged at the very end of the novel by the arrival of a teenaged grandchild of Bertie's. Much is crammed into this lengthy novel, from long descriptions of the flora and fauna of both the Amazon and Cornwall to environmental messages and information on Victorian furniture and clothing. While Hussey touches on several fundamental truths and important messages, she verges on the didactic at times. The journals in particular have a preachy tone, with the Amazon Indians portrayed as superior noble savages. The novel itself has an old-fashioned feel, but sophisticated readers who persevere will find this multilayered work intriguing.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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