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THE AVIARY by Kathleen O’Dell

TITLE: The Aviary

AUTHOR: Kathleen O’Dell

PUBLISHER: Yearling

LENGTH: 352 pages

SUMMARY:  (via amazon.com) Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the crumbling Glendoveer mansion, home to a magician’s widow, a cage full of exotic birds, and a decades-old mystery. Clara loves old Mrs. Glendoveer, but the birds in the aviary frighten her—they always seem to screech and squall whenever she’s near. And then one day, the mynah bird speaks, and a mystery starts to unravel.

Clara discovers dark secrets about the family, and about her own past. Somehow the birds in the aviary seem to be at the center of it all, and Clara can’t shake the feeling that they are trying to tell her something. . . .

BRIDGE: The Aviary is reminiscent of Victorian mysteries. While there are a few times where the language slips back to more 20th/21st century slang – enough to make the reader pause – overall, it fits the time period nicely. Clara fits the pre-teen/coming-of-age protagonist nicely. There is a clear struggle between Clara’s desire to please her mother and follow the guidelines her mother has set in place for her while also wanting to prove her independence and autonomy. Ruby fills the role of comic-relief “help” nicely while balancing Harriet’s overprotective tendencies toward Clara. The introduction of Daphne brings a bit of a side-kick feel to the story. It’s a little reminiscent of Holmes and Watson…if they had been pre-teen girls in early 20th century America. But you get it.

All of these characters can be taught as archetypes and the mystery itself follows a fairly traditional plot arc. One could bridge Clara’s character to Alice from Through the Looking Glass or Wendy from Peter Pan. It might even be possible to investigate early 20th century architecture since the house is discussed in such detail. And science teachers could do a little work with the appearance of the different birds that live in the Glendoveer’s aviary.

READERS: Fans of period literature will enjoy The Aviary for the connections to the early 20th century. The fantasitcal mystery in the story will delight literary sleuths even if it is a tad predictable. Fans of resolved endings will appreciate the ultimate resolution to the story and Clara’s growth as a character will feel comfortable to middle grade readers.

OTHER TITLES: If readers enjoy this title, they might also like Liesel & Po by Lauren Oliver, A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, or The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee.

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