The Treasure House by Linda Newbery

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The Treasure House by Linda Newbery

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Nina's mother is warm, artistic and impulsive. But one day she disappears, leaving only a vague message telling people not to worry. Then Nina finds some of her mother's favourite belongings in the charity shop, and decides to investigate the mystery. Linda popped into Bookbag Towers and chatted to us about charity shops. We were fascinated.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 214 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444003437

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

Linda Newbery says she once helped out in a charity shop, and felt it was a perfect place to find material for stories. Each item had a history, whether sad or happy, and Second-Hand Rose, the shop owned by Nina's eccentric great-aunts, is full of vintage clothes and other fascinating things, including a big green toy crocodile which is bought and returned so many times it becomes the shop mascot. But finding things there she is sure her absent mother would never willingly give away, Nina is puzzled, distressed and, eventually, determined to find out what made her mother leave—and whether she intends to come back home one day.

Nina overhears her great-aunts describe her mother as a bit flighty, not the best wife and mother for their favourite nephew and his daughter. She is deeply upset by this because she loves her funny, unconventional mum, but truth be told, the reader will have to admit that they could well be right. How could a woman just disappear, leaving such a stark and unhelpful note (Gone away for a while. Please don't worry. Love you both very much. Miranda xxxxxxxxxx), and thereafter send just a couple of enigmatic text messages? After all, if there's one thing guaranteed to make you worry, it's being told not to! But Ms Newbery is not writing a thriller, where the author's first task is to somehow get the parents out of the picture so the children are free to chase villains, run terrible risks, and save the good guy, the country and, once in a while, the whole universe without adult interference. Her books are set in the everyday world of school, families and friends, and even though she introduces the occasional touch of fantasy she is justifiably renowned for her realistic settings, which lead her fans to identify closely with her main characters. And because, in the real world, parents are sometimes less than perfect, they do silly and thoughtless things in her books, too.

No matter what crisis a person may be living through, real life has a tendency to just keep on going in the corners and round the margins. There are several secondary story-lines woven delicately into this mystery, so skilfully done that the final impression is of a satisfying, true-to-life whole. Nina is just starting secondary school, and her misery at her mother's disappearance means she is reluctant to make the effort to find new friends. But when she does, their down-to-earth attitude to parental problems is a real support. What is more, they are regular visitors to her great-aunts' shop, neatly tying her new life in with the old one. Also, a boy recovering from a nervous breakdown does some work in the shop as part of his therapy, and helping Nina to solve the mystery of her mother's whereabouts gives him, in turn, the strength to move on with his life.

This is an excellent book, simply and clearly describing the experiences and of emotions any one of Ms Newbery's crowds of fans could encounter. Its message is that despite the difficulties and sadness that must be part of life, you can always find a friend or a family member to offer warmth and support—something that adults and children alike will find comforting and uplifting.

Linda Newbery has written before about the effect on children of absent or divorced parents. Bookbag recommends The Sandfather and Catcall.

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