Thursday, December 8, 2016

Middle Grades Pick: Brightwood

by Tania Unsworth
Algonquin Young Readers
260 pages
ISBN: 9781616203306

Compelling and mesmerizing, Brightwood is a dazzling middle grades read sure to captivate!

Eleven year old Daisy is still waiting for her mother to return to Brightwood. It has been five, or was it, six hours ago that she left? Daisy knows her mother would never go away and not return. Daisy hunkers down in their moldering mansion and awakens to find her mother still missing. It is just the two of them, and Daisy has never left the grounds of Brightwood, not once. Her mother has made it painfully clear that there is nothing out there in the world beyond the gates for Daisy. What can she do now?

There is enough to eat--more than enough. Daisy's mother buys in bulk--everything in bulk. In fact, it is hard to maneuver in the mansion. Even the once grand ballroom is stuffed with boxes and old furniture. Daisy has to clear paths to walk. Keeping her company is her pet rat Tar (aptly named Tar because it is rat backwards) who not only talks but  has a wicked sense of humor. After the first day, Daisy meets a specter of a black and white girl named Frank. Frank has been around the world on expeditions with Daisy's own kooky grandfather. As Daisy begins to panic, Frank is the voice of reason who calms Daisy and talks her through problems.

A stranger shows up and acts like he is right  at home. Daisy is afraid of the newcomer and talks it over with Frank who warns her that the stranger seems to be taking over Brightwood. Daisy looks for clues not only to where her mother could have gone, but also who this newcomer could be and what could he want. When she realizes that the stranger is her mother's cousin--the estranged black sheep of  the family--Daisy goes into defense mode. his words are chilling:  "Nobody  knows you exist."  What are the odds a sheltered eleven year old, a pet rat and a made-up friend defeating a maniacal killer?

Brightwood is everything a story should be! The setting is a creepy, near abandoned mansion located far from help. There is a  missing mother, a scared eleven year old girl who has to rely on herself to save her own life and that of her mother, a family secret, generations of mental illness, strange ancestors, strange family portraits, and rooms full of boxes that hold the clues that will save Daisy and Brightwood.

Cover art is beautiful and evokes a sense of gloominess: the mansion in the background, trees and grass overgrown, the massive iron gate holding Daisy inside the grounds, a girl at the window looking out hoping to see her mother. 

Highly, highly recommended for all middle grades and anyone who gets lost in a great story. I LOVED Daisy! If you know readers 8-up, give them Brightwood. They will love it.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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