Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Season of Secrets

Season of Secrets

Spring 2011 Fiction
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Sally Nicholls
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-21825-2
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Nobody listens to Molly when she tells them about the Green Man she sees, hunted, injured, and alone. They all think she’s a bit too dreamy. Molly’s mother would have paid attention, Molly knows, but she died last year. Now Dad stares at Molly and her sister Hannah like he doesn’t even know them anymore. He can’t even manage to clean the house or buy food, so Molly and Hannah have to live with their grandparents in a tiny village with hardly any other children to play with. So that means, in addition to missing her mother and her old life, Molly is on her own in trying to help the Green Man. Her new teacher tells her the Green Man is an old legend about the god of the spring, hunted and killed every year by the Holly King of the winter. Sure enough, as the autumn progresses to winter, the Green Man gets sicker and sicker, and Molly is sadder and sadder. But the legend has a second part, and in the depth of winter, things begin to change again for Molly—and for the Green Man.

This beautifully written, sensitive novel recalls the work of master fantasist Diana Wynne Jones in its incorporation of old British mythology into a young girl’s family dramas and struggles. At its best, the genre of fantasy is not escapist, but instead helps readers to feel and understand “real life” problems at a deeper level. That is what Nicholls’s novel does, by taking readers into the cyclical battle against depression, the season of winter, and the (temporary) death of the spirit. There are no surprises in this novel, but readers don’t need them. For young readers, this novel may provide their first introduction to a familiar story type; older readers can re-experience it as if for the first time in this well-crafted version.

Naomi Lesley   ©2011 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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