Wednesday, October 14, 2020

ARC Review: The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins

43880159. sy475Title: The Sisters of Straygarden Place
Series: n/a
Author: Hayley Chewins
Source/Format: Publisher (Netgalley); eARC
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Candlewick; October 13, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A riveting middle-grade fantasy about sibling bonds, enchanted houses, and encroaching wildness, lyrically told in eerily beautiful prose... 
The grass grew taller than the house itself, surrounding it on all sides. It stuffed the keyholes and scraped against the roof. It shook the walls and made paintings shiver... 
Seven years ago, the Ballastian sisters' parents left them in the magical Straygarden Place, a house surrounded by tall silver grass and floating trees. They left behind a warning saying never to leave the house or go into the grass. "Wait for us," the note read. "Sleep darkly." Ever since then, the house itself has taken care of Winnow, Mayhap, and Pavonine--feeding them, clothing them, even keeping them company--while the girls have waited and grown up and played a guessing game: Think of an animal, think of a place. Think of a person, think of a face. Until one day, when the eldest, fourteen-year-old Winnow, does the unthinkable and goes outside into the grass, and everything twelve-year-old Mayhap thought she knew about her home, her family, and even herself starts to unravel. With luscious, vivid prose, poet and author Hayley Chewins transports readers to a house where beloved little dogs crawl into their owners' minds to sleep, sick girls turn silver, and anything can be stolen--even laughter and silence.... 
The Sisters of Straygarden Place was a wonderfully atmospheric story about a trio of sisters and the long-held mysteries of the titular place. Perfect for middle grade readers, it was as magical as it was mysterious, as well as sometimes whimsical and also sometimes dangerous. I had a lot of fun reading this book.

From the start, the premise of an isolated house surrounded by tall, magical grass was one that had my interest. I’m a sucker for house stories, and this was very much a house story. I say that because the house of Straygarden Place had as much personality as the characters in the story. It was clear early on that the warnings about the grass weren’t to be taken lightly. The setting might have been limited due to the early setup, but it really served the mysterious and eerie tone of the story. In that way, Chewins’s did a fantastic job of developing the magical aspects of the story. The magic, for instance, had consequences, and it worked so well with the setting.

Overall I enjoyed the story. It was just good. It was a relatively quick read once I got into it, but that wasn’t hard to do. From page one, Mayhap’s voice (as a character) was distinctive. As the middle sister, she seemed to be caught between what her older and younger siblings needed from her—such as when she tried to protect Pavonine and help Winnow by keeping secrets and bending the truth. Mayhap meant well—as proven by what she said and her actions—and it spoke to the type of character she was.

The rest of the characters were just as great and dynamic as Mayhap. Chewins’s development of the characters was only one of the many highlights of the story. The sisters were really the focus of The Sisters of Straygarden Place—I mean, it’s in the title after all—and it showed.

The Sisters of Straygarden Place was a fantastic story. It was the first book I’ve read by Hayley Chewins and it certainly won’t be the last.
About the author...

Hayley Chewins grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in a house so full of books that she learnt to read by accident. The second eldest of four daughters, she sang incessantly as a child -- so incessantly, in fact, that she was sent to lessons twice a week in the interests of household peace. Hayley studied classical voice for a year before switching to a degree in English Literature and Italian. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a house full of art and music and colour, with her husband and a very small poodle. She believes in two things above all else: the magic of love, and the heroism of sisters. Her debut novel, THE TURNAWAY GIRLS, was a Kirkus Best Book and was featured on the Amelia Bloomer List of Best Feminist Books for Young Readers. Her second book, THE SISTERS OF STRAYGARDEN PLACE, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in September 2020.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Candlewick) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

1 comment:

  1. It's eligible for the Cybils Awards this year, and I hope it gets nominated so I (a panelist in Elementary/MG speculative fiction) will get to read it sooner rather than later, although it sounds so good I imagine it will be sooner in any event.....(anyone can nominate, so if you feel so moved...….)

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