The loss of their mother and then the move to a new home so that their father (Edward Martin) could work at a new asylum, left twelve year old Verna and her younger sister, six year old Carlie (Caroline) to be looked after by their stern Aunt Maude. When the new help (Eleanor Miller), a patient at the asylum, started to become close to the girls, Aunt Maude became jealous of the relationship and started to take an even meaner approach to dealing with Eleanor and the children. Between the cruelty of Aunt Maude and of her own father, Eleanor had a set back causing Verna and Carlie to take drastic measures in order to help their friend.
This is a great children’s historical that has the main characters doing things that many kids would like to do. The decision making process is impulsive and selfish with no concern with how it may affect others. This wonderful story really brings across the lesson of consequences to Verna. There is a lot of sad parts to this book that also brings out how differently people respond to one another. Verna saw the patients of the asylum as friends while Aunt Maude saw them as something to be afraid of. For a youth book, this is dealing with serious emotional and social concepts that can leave a good opening for honest conversations. It is a historical so it also shows mental health treatment in its infancy and gives kids an idea of how different many things are now than it was just over 100 years ago.
This is an early reviewer copy from Harper Collins Children, it is not due to be released until June 2009