Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. In fact, she’s confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it’s a comfortable life, and if it weren’t for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too.
But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mysteryâ€”and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O’Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.
A few weekends ago, it was storming outside in ways it hadn’t all summer. Thunder and lightning filled the sky, and Miss Maddie was trying to mold herself to my side. I wanted a “dark and stormy” book and considered re-reading the first Harry Potter or A Wrinkle in Time, but I’ve re-read both within the last year and wanted something different. I put out the call on Twitter and got enough recommendations that I began a Rainy Day Reads shelf on Goodreads. Then I remembered The Book Smugglers reviewed The Aviary a while back, mentioning what a lovely little book it is. I looked for it on my Nook and bought it.
Aside from the lovely, chinoiserie-like cover,Â The Aviary itself is, as The Book Smugglers said, lovely. Clara is a little adult. Raised among three grown women, she is wise beyond her years and oh so lonely. At 12, she’s also beginning to question her mother’s judgment. For instance, if Clara has a heart condition, why doesn’t she get winded running down the stairs? And why can’t she at least have a friend? When friendship comes in the form of spirited, bubbly Daphne, Clara blossoms. The two are incredibly different, but they are curious and smart and adventurous, leaving notes for one another and organizing a secret communication system. Neither is willing to accept the secrets as old and dead or the rumors as simply gossip. They want to figure out just what happened to the Glendoveer children, and though they are timid and nervous at times, Daphne and Clara push one another until the secrets give way.
Though the mystery at the heart of the novel is pretty evident (I had to remind myself I’m not super smart, I’m just not eight), the path Daphne and Clara take to get there is so fun. There’s magic, but it isn’t a whole new world, and magic isn’t what saves the day. In fact, magic is the cause of the biggest conflict in the book. Ultimately, it’s a book of women, strong women – and from Mrs. Glendoveer to Clara and her mother, Daphne, and the cook Ruby, each plays a part in setting the secrets of Glendoveer mansion free.
Add this book to your Goodreads shelf.