Nooks & Crannies: A Book Review

Hi!

Blogging has been spotty lately, but I hope you can forgive me: it’s Homecoming week! Class officers do much of the planning for the annual pep rally and spirit week, so if I haven’t been blogging, I’ve likely been making copies, finding volunteers, or picking out decorations. Fortunately, preparations are set, so fingers crossed all goes well this afternoon {pep rally} and tomorrow {the game!}. With that said, here’s a new book review for your Thursday morning. What have you been reading and doing lately?

Nooks and CranniesTitle: Nooks & Crannies
Author: Jessica Lawson
Published: June 2nd, 2015 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Genre: Middle Grade / Historical Fiction Mystery
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: Not for this one!

Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn’t have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.

Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed — a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test. {Goodreads}

When I consider children’s classics, I’m brought back to my time in elementary school, where practicing my handwriting was homework, recess was still a thing, and class read-alouds were scheduled into the day. My elementary school teachers, who I can thank for my love of learning and reading, were also some of the first to introduce me to famous works of kids’ literature: Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and several novels by the perennial favorite Roald Dahl. Perhaps it’s a form of nostalgia that I’m drawn to the modern predecessors of these classics, those stories with quirky characters, threads of whimsy, and bursts of charm and creativity.

A recent example of a delightful MG {and my true-blue obsession with them} is Jessica Lawson’s Nooks & Crannies. Marketed as Clue meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it sounded like too good of a book to pass up {can we agree that mysteries and manors are right up my alley?}. Going in with high expectations can be a risk, but I’m happy to report they matched up to the very end. The only effort on my part that remains is convincing you to read this as well.

Tabitha Crum would likely be better off as an orphan. Neglected, underappreciated, and oft-ignored by her parents, Tabitha counts only a mouse, lovingly named Pemberley, as a friend. Thus, you can imagine her surprise when she receives news to join the Countess of Windermere, owner of a haunted mansion and the newspapers’ favorite reclusive subject, for a weekend. She’s not alone in her invitation, however, as five other kids have been summoned to the manor too. Each child guest has their distinct differences, but similarities can be found in their curiosity. The question: what are they doing there? Lawson’s talent for developing characters is clear from the first chapter. Tabitha is an engaging narrator, and whereas her plucky and ever optimistic personality might be annoying in another setting, it’s effective here, fitting with the tone of the book.

The other guests are equally compelling, serving as complements or foils to Tabitha’s own disposition. Among them: a rude and spoiled young redhead, prone to stealing when no one’s looking, a charitable and forgiving know-it-all, and a servant who is too suspicious to go unnoticed by Tabitha. The adults lack the same complexity seen in their kids, but, again, it works in the context in the story; their exaggerated traits play to the Victorian mystery Lawson alludes to. With such a large number of characters, keeping track of each proved difficult in the beginning, but this problem naturally sorted itself out as their personalities came into play.

I’ve seen complaints that the book’s major storyline is predictable, but I dare to disagree. The mystery is developed with great care. Clues are dropped throughout the plot in a subtle manner, suspense, though used often, is not overdone, and finally, but most importantly, the intended audience will gobble up the various oddities of the story. Furthermore, I found the setting, complete with hidden passageways and moving paintings, crucial to the plot’s success; it adds to the dark, humorous style. The ending is the cherry on top {no better description than that!}, tying the elements together in a satisfying conclusion.

I often get caught up in the new young adult releases – the novels that appear on my favorite blogs, on Goodreads, and on the new books shelf at the library – that it’s sometimes weeks in between each middle grade book I read. Regardless, it’s not the time, but what’s inside the books I read that matters. Nooks & Crannies was a charming reminder of what I love about the MG genre: that it’s so easy to get lost in the story. Roald Dahl copy? I think not. This one stands entirely on its own.

Have a wonderful day!

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4 thoughts on “Nooks & Crannies: A Book Review

  1. Nooks & Crannies actually looks like it could be a fun cute read. I am going to check this out after reading your review. You wrote an incredible post by the way and I love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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