Hardcover, 337 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she’s confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it’s a comfortable life, and if it weren’t for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too.
But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mystery—and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O’Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.
The Aviary is a charming middle grade story that takes a bit of magic, a bit of friendship and a bit of luck to tell a heartwarming story of siblings, justice and release. It is a historical novel and the first thing that will hit you when you begin the novel, or at least, the first thing that I noticed was how protective the mother seems of her daughter, the main character of the novel. Her protectiveness makes some sense when we find out that the daughter has a weak heart but still, not allowing the girl a single friend? Nor letting her step outside the front gate? What? That just seemed wrong to me. And then we find out that she doesn’t even have a weak heart, it was something the mother and the old lady cooked up to keep the girl safe? That seemed REALLY FANTASTICALLY wrong.
I couldn’t help but focus on that admittedly not so important part of the novel. Okay no, it is important. Even when she finds out that she’s in fact, totally okay, the girl is only allowed one friend. Why? This is bad parenting, you guys! I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it wasn’t discussed in more detail and this derailed me from the entire story which is about the birds, in case you didn’t realize.
The novel was actually okay. Just okay because I couldn’t get over the not sick but I’m gonna treat you like a prisoner portion. I actually don’t have much to say about it. I just wanted to rant about well, you know what I wanted to rant about. Well, no, the one friend that Clara had was actually quite cute. The birds themselves were pretty interesting and the denouement of the novel, while cheesy in the extreme, was heartwarming to an extent. It’s not the best middle grade novel out there but it certainly has its good qualities.