Quill & Quire Review - The Secret of the Stone House

Reviewed by: Kristin Butcher

This fall Coteau Books is publishing From Many Peoples, a Saskatchewan-based collection of four historical novels. The stories reflect Saskatchewan experiences, but the themes have broader appeal. In Adeline's Dream, Linda Aksomitis explores a young German girl's struggle to fit into Canadian life in 1910. Nettie's Journey by Adele Dueck tells of a Ukrainian family's escape to Saskatchewan during the First World War. Christmas at Wapos Bay by Jordan Wheeler and Dennis Jackson follows three Cree children on a life-changing adventure at their grandfather's cabin.

Completing the collection is The Secret of the Stone House, by Judith Silverthorne. In this time-travel story, 12-year-old Emily Bradford visits the Saskatchewan homestead of her Scottish great-grandparents. In 1903 she watches them build the family home that her mother and aunt are preparing to sell in 2005. Through her exploration of the stone house - the link between the two eras - Emily comes to realize that despite their obvious differences, her ancestors and immediate family share many similarities, including personal idiosyncrasies and values.

The Secret of the Stone House has everything young readers crave in a fantasy adventure: time travel, magic talismans, and hidden chambers. The problem is that there are too many elements. The same is true of the plot. Emily faces so many issues - a bossy mother, her parents' divorce, her grandmother's death, the sale of the stone house - that it's difficult to determine what her main problem is. Without a clear force driving her actions, the story lacks relevance. Since this novel is a sequel to an earlier work (A Secret of Sentinel Rock), the answers may lie there, but a sequel should be able to stand on its own.

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