Genre: Mystery/Historical (set in 1985-yep, that's historical!:)
Release Date: 4/15/2010
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About the Book: When Sadie and her younger sister Zuzu move to Salt Lake City, they discover a room in the attic called Palace Beautiful. Inside Palace Beautiful is a journal belonging to a girl named Helen who lived in the house in 1918. Along with their next door neighbor Bella, the girls decide to read the journal entries which have parallels to what's happening in their lives. The girls become obsessed with the story of the influenza outbreak that happens and are determined to find out what happened to Helen.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Palace Beautiful is on our state book award list for grades 4-6 (Mark Twain Award) and it's the book my Chat & Chew (aka book clubs) are talking about this month. So far the three groups I've visited with about the book have all loved it.
Palace Beautiful is a gentle read and a light mystery. The journal entries with Helen's family and the outbreak of the influenza in 1918 mirror events that are happening in the girls lives which lead to some great discussions with the students in our book groups. I really wasn't sure how much discussion we would pull out of this book but so far the groups have had a lot to talk about. They really like the journal entries, the idea of finding something from the past and having a secret room, and the characters in general.
Sadie's mom passed away shortly after giving birth to Zuzu and now that her stepmom is expecting, Sadie is worried the same thing will happen. She's also struggling to remember her mother but also accept Sherrie as a mother figure in her life. I really liked the adults (at least Sadie's parents and grandmother) in this book and I loved Sherrie and Sadie's relationship.
Bella is quirky and has created an identity (Belladonna Desolation) all her own. Her mother calls her by her real name, Kristin, and has different expectations for her. She grows throughout the book and I love how Bella is quirky and fun and accepts the fact that she doesn't have to fit into the mold others may have for you.
The journal entries provide a great look into a part of history that might be unknown to many readers. I know I didn't know a lot of details about the influenza outbreak of 1918 and the journal entries kept me engaged in the story. There's a nice mystery with the girls trying to figure out what happened to Helen and the readers I've talked to have all enjoyed this aspect of the book.
This is also a great story of friendship and family and I think it would be a great mother daughter book club read. A nice light mystery for readers looking for books about friendship with a touch of mystery or history.
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from final copy I checked out from my library