THE PAINTED HALLWAY
Nancy Lou Patterson
Volume 21 Number 4
When research projects compel thirteen-year-old Jennifer Scott's academic parents to "go overseas," Jennifer finds herself spending the summer with her great-grandmother at Thistle Manor in southwestern Ontario. Jennifer's initial feeling of abandonment fades as she becomes acquainted with grandnan and develops an appreciation of her own position as a fifth-generation member of the family. All too soon, however, Grandnan suffers a stroke and Jennifer must accept the reality of illness and the very real possibility of death.
Jennifer investigates the three-storey mansion and discovers exquisite murals painted on the walls of the grand front hallway. Her curiosity piqued, Jennifer determines to conduct her own summer research project when no one can answer her question, "Who painted the murals?" Enlisting the assistance of librarian Mina Dassel, Jennifer pieces together the puzzle of the artist's identity. Using the past-time fiction convention of a door opening to the past, Patterson allows Jennifer glimpses into the world of the first-generation inhabitants of Thistle Manor. These glimpses point her to some startling and tragic discoveries about the family's history.
Patterson provides wonderful details about Thistle Manor, a yellow brick mansion that acts as a perfect setting for experiencing and uncovering mysterious events, present and past. Jennifer emerges an extraordinarily adult thirteen-year-old in this coming-of-age story. As the only child of academic parents, Jennifer's vocabulary and systematic research methods might be explained; however, the long-buried family secrets she uncovers and her full comprehension of them seem more appropriate for an older heroine.
Special young readers will be rewarded for their perseverance in following Jennifer's investigation of Thistle Manor's history of human joys and sorrows. Patterson treats Jennifer's experiences with visions of the past delicately and attempts to promote an appreciation of the connection between people's heritage and their present. "Art," Jennifer concludes, "never dies"; nor does the power of love.
Darleen R. Golke is a teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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