Elise Primavera has, like Ivy, suffered her fair share of jinxes in life and has found it helpful, like Cat, to consult the I Ching before making any important decisions. She often feels, like Pru, that the safest place in this danger-filled world is under a quilt with a good book. As Franny dreams of doing, she has made her mark in the world-but as a writer and illustrator of children's books and not as an explorer in the mold of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Among her many books are the national bestselling Auntie Claus and its sequel. This is her first novel, but it won't be her last, because like Hieronymus Gumm, she always likes to have the last word and is hard at work on another book about the Gumm Street Girls.
Primavera (Auntie Claus) takes her time getting to the heart of her tale, narrated by a humorous yet disarmingly wise omniscient narrator. In the town of Sherbet, four girls ("all about ten or eleven years old") live on Gumm Street: prudent Prudence Gumm, bookish and severe; Franny Muggs, voyeur and daredevil; Cat Lemonjello, whose mother wrote a hipster version of the I Ching ("Darkness is coming at you, dude"); and Ivy Diamond, new to the neighborhood, whose broken-mirror-imposed seven years of bad luck are soon to be up. Ivy holds the key to the story; piano teacher Mr. Staccato (who claims to be 122 years old) tells her that she is the rightful heir of two red shoes-laced with mystical powers and tied to Hollywood's production of The Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland fans will appreciate the coy use of her given name, Frances Gumm). When a fierce storm rips through town, the girls find themselves facing a wicked witch named Cha Cha who wants those shoes. From there it's a postmodern, surreal reworking of Baum's classic, significantly buoyed by the author's cheerful pen-and-inks, which recall the work of Jules Feiffer. In a nod to the Hogwarts hierarchy, the girls' school is divided into four houses, each named for one of the founder's favorite sandwiches, and instead of a sorting hat, a "large glowing computer" puts the girls where they will "find [their] unique talent." Despite the author's overriding emphasis on humor, Primavera is at her best in occasional flashes of poignancy-as in the omniscient narrator's breathtaking passage about the emotional power of family heirlooms. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"A delightful tale of friendship and adventure. Primavera's illustrations are small artistic gems." -- School Library Journal "Primavera is at her best." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Gr 3-6-Set in the picturesque town of Sherbet, this story centers around four girls who live on Gumm Street. Franny, Pru, and Cat are not friends (at least not at first). Pru thinks Franny is reckless. Franny thinks Pru is a big baby. And they both dislike Cat because she is just too perfect. But when Ivy moves into the neighborhood, everything changes. First she discovers a pair of ruby slippers. Then the girls' piano teacher, Mr. Staccato, disappears. And, finally, a strange and magnetic woman claiming to be his sister moves into his house. The girls soon realize that they must ban together to save Sherbet. With the help of two dogs, a jinx, Pru's copy of The Wizard of Oz, and ESP, they set out on an adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Primavera's illustrations, laced throughout the narrative, are small artistic gems that unite the text. To truly enjoy The Secret Order, readers should be familiar with L. Frank Baum's original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, even those only familiar with the 1939 film will take pleasure in this delightful tale of friendship and adventure.-Lisa Marie Williams, Fairfax County Public Library System, Reston, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.