THE SECRET STARLING, by Judith Eagle and Jo Rioux, Walker Books US, June 8, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8 and up — see review)
A girl’s world is turned upside down when her uncle/guardian suddenly disappears in Judith Eagle and Jo Rioux’s The Secret Starling.
Clara Starling lives a life of dull rules, deadly routine, and flavorless meals under her cold uncle’s strict regime — until the day Uncle disappears, leaving Clara alone in his old mansion.
When streetwise orphan Peter and his rescue cat arrive unexpectedly, the children seize the chance to live by their own rules. But when the pair’s wild romps through the halls of Braithwaite Manor reveal a single, worn ballet slipper, they are hurled into a mystery that will lead to London’s glittering Royal Opera House and the unraveling of twisted Starling family secrets of poison, passion, and murder. —Synopsis provided by Walker Books
The Secret Starling is an odd little book. It has the feel of the Lemony Snicket books minus the dead-pan narrator.
From the beginning, you know something is not right with Clara’s situation, and things go from bad to worse with every turn, and yet, somehow, you know that everything will turn out all right in the end. Clara’s confidence and ingenuity paired with Peter’s determination and loyalty make for a good pairing.
The bad guys/girls are exactly as you’d expect — hidden identities and nefarious intentions. And the other adults, while occasionally helpful, play minor roles throughout.
The publisher’s suggested age range for The Secret Starling is 10-14, but that skews a bit old. There’s nothing in it that would require a more mature reader, it includes illustrations, and the character’s ages are younger, as well. Rather, it’s better suited to readers ages 8 to 12.
The Secret Starling is a fairly fast read, with some engaging illustrations that aren’t necessary to the story but certainly add to the overall feel. It’s a good option for readers who are moving on to longer chapter books but still enjoy added artwork.
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