AUTHOR: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
LENGTH: 226 pages
SUMMARY: (via amazon.com) Robin was always “wandering off” (her mother’s words) to get away from the confusion she felt inside her. It was not until Robin’s father found a permanent job at the McCurdy ranch, after three years as a migrant worker, that Robin had a place to wander to. As time went by the Velvet Room became more and more of a haven for her–a place to read and dream, a place to bury one’s fears and doubts, a place to count on.
I originally read this book in elementary school, about 4th or 5th grade. I was devouring books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder during this period, not because she was a Newbery Honor book author, but because my last name was Snider and I felt it was a SIGN FROM ABOVE that her books were meant for me. So after speeding through The Egypt Game, I went back to the library and picked up the next Snyder book that was still on the shelf. I had learned to “follow” an author when plowing through my mother’s collection of Nancy Drew books.
And this is a book that stuck with me for decades. I was enthralled by the idea that there was a secret place somewhere for me where I could escape to be alone and read. Snyder described my perfect oasis. I wanted a velvet room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and antique furniture that no one else knew existed. There was a romance to the secrecy of it at an age when it felt like I would never have any time to myself or have any secrets worth keeping. I saw myself in Robin (again, the fact that our names began with the same letter didn’t hurt). I loved to read and got tired of dealing with my family just like she did.
That is the magic of Snyder’s writing that I rediscovered reading this book as an adult. Her descriptions are so exact. There is a precision and attention to detail in her writing that paints a crystal clear image of the scene. The dialogue is simple without being dated and the plot is a little predictable but definitely still unique. But the description is the key. It made me believe that the old stone house existed and Bridget was waiting for me and I could melt into the velvet window seats with a book and forget myself for a while.
Now I get to introduce this wonderful book to my own students and children. Our amazing luck is that Snyder is still writing books. Her newest, William’s Midsummer Dreams, was published in May of last year. Her love of students and joy in writing for children paired with a list of forty-six books that continues to grow, makes me think that my 11 year-old self was right in demanding, “Give me more by this lady. She can write really good!”