________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009

cover Grim Hill: The Forgotten Secret. (Grim Hill; #3).

Linda DeMeulemeester.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2009.
185 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-897550-13-7.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy

excerpt:

When I looked up, my mouth dropped open. The inside of Lea's house was like the inside [of] an exotic tent. Bead curtains hung from all the doorways, and silk drapes colored the walls and ceiling. Old-fashioned glass lamps were fastened against a wall and they glowed like torches.

"Cool house," was all I managed to say. I could see I was making a brilliant impression.

Lea smiled again, but her smile faded when someone from behind me said, "Well if it isn't our new neighbors." It was my future employer greeting us. It made me think about how my mother always said people were too quick to make judgments. I mean, just because Lea and her aunt had to live in a house that needed a lot of work, Skeeter and Sookie had assumed it was a haunted place. That wasn't fair. Look how nice the house was on the inside! And they were both so welcoming.

In the earlier books of this series, The Secret of Grim Hill and Grim Hill: The Secret Deepens, the evil beings from Fairy that caused such havoc have apparently been sealed up within the hill for the next seventy years, but, when Lea and her Aunt Bea move into the neighbourhood's purportedly haunted house, Cat begins to get prickles of uneasiness. Practically everyone else in the town has no memory of those horrific events in the near past, but Cat remembers all too well and has no wish to have a reoccurrence. On the other hand, her nine-year-old sister, Sookie, also remembers and is much more attuned to magic than Cat and positively welcomes the newcomers, the more peculiar the better. Soon, she is cultivating a remarkable garden--in February!--of plants which Aunt Bea has given her. Distractions at home and at school where ballroom-dance lessons--replacements for co-ed soccer practice by coaches hoping to "build team unity and co-operation"!--new friends made with Lea's help, and the organizing of a Valentine's Day dance keep Cat from focusing on her suspicions until it is almost too late to avoid disaster. And the forgotten secret? It's from long ago, just like the decorations for the dance, and gets recalled just in time, though not before Sookie's love charms (it does, after all, take place around Valentine's Day!) have wreaked havoc among teachers and students at Darkmount High.

    The story gets off to rather a slow start with all the scene-setting and introductory matter, but, once it takes off, it careens along, getting spookier and spookier, with any positive resolution getting harder and harder to imagine. Needless to say, it does work out in the end, leaving Cat robbed of her potential best friend but on the verge of fitting in at school and wiser in the ways of relationships, both boy-girl and mother-daughter. As for Sookie, she is obviously not just attracted to magic, she is magic. Cat will have her hands full keeping her magic focused on good rather than evil, and since Grim Hill does seem to attract all sorts of other-worldly beings, I foresee more books in the series.

Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, MB--no hills, haunted or otherwise--and works in an elementary school library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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