Once Upon A Romance

Once Upon A Romance's Review Of...
Palace Beautiful by Sarah deFord Williams


Cover art: Palace Beautiful
Reviewer: Amy Lignor
Title: Palace Beautiful
Author: Sarah deFord Williams
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN-13: 978-0-399-25298-3
Release Date: April 2010
Genre/Sub-genre: Youth/Tween Fiction
Publisher’s Age/Grade Recommendation: Ages 9-12
OUAR’s Age/Grade Recommendation: Ages 9-12
Year/Setting: 1980’s/Utah
Overall Rating: 3.0
Sarah's Website/Blog: www.sarahdefordwilliams.moonfruit.com

This debut novel for young readers is certainly an interesting concept. Sadie Evelyn Brooks is thirteen years old. Her mother passed away and her father is remarried to a cosmetics aficionado by the name of Sherrie. Now, this isn’t a story about how much a child despises their stepmother. In fact, Sadie is very fond of Sherrie and is looking forward to when Sherrie will give birth to her new sibling. Sherrie is seven months pregnant when the whole family packs their things, leaves Texas, and heads to Salt Lake City.

In Salt Lake lives Grandma; Grandma Brooks is a wonderful lady who very much likes Sherrie, too. Sadie’s younger sister, Zuzu, also loves Sherrie but she’s having a hard time adjusting to the fact that she has to leave all her friends behind to live in a brand new state with people she’s never met before.

When they pull up in front of a magnificent old house, Sadie and Zuzu find themselves excited. The house is one of those structures that "feels" as if all of its history and stories are carved into its’ shiny dark wood. Zuzu rushes up the stares and claims the pink bedroom, as Sadie settles into the one that is painted "far-far-away" blue. She feels comfortable as she stares at the huge sycamore tree that’s perched outside her window. Sadie also notices a girl staring back at her – a girl named Kristin, but who calls herself Belladonna Desolation. Bella informs Sadie that there are ghosts who wander the cemetery that can be seen from the window of the old attic.

When Sadie goes up to the attic to watch, she doesn’t really "see" the ghosts out there, but she does stumble across a hidden room in the corner. Inside the small cove, she finds an old candle in a tin holder, a long necklace with a pearl, an old black-and-white photograph of a large family, and a journal that had been left there a long, long time ago.

Soon, Sadie, Bella, and Zuzu form a small group and make a deal to read the journal as a team, so that they can perhaps understand and know the people who’d once lived in this magnificent, old house. As they get further into the story, they soon find that a young thirteen-year-old girl wrote the journal in 1918, and she tells a story of the influenza epidemic that hit her small town, as well as the stories of the war. Page after page opens up the past to the three girls, until they want with all their hearts to find the author of the journal (if she’s still alive) and return the precious items from her childhood.

The story is truly lovely, especially when the writer tells of how all souls come from a story that their mother whispers into their ears at birth. I don’t want to spoil anything for the reader, but these stories that the author relates are truly sweet and hit you right smack dab in the heart. My only suggestion for this book would be the fact that I think it could be much greater in scope. The story is so in-depth and well-thought-out, especially with the historical references to the early 1900’s, that I think it would be perfect if it was enlarged and marketed to a higher age range in the Younger Adult market.

Until next time, Amy

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