The Secret of Goldenrod, by Jane O'Reilly

The Secret of Goldenrod, by Jane O'Reilly (Carolrhoda Books, October 2016, middle grade), might sound like it is going to be a haunted old house/creepy doll story, but it actually isn't creepy at all (apart from the fact that any doll who comes alive has an inherent creepiness).  It is instead a happy story, which ends up with the doll being happy, the old house being happy, and the main character being happy.  And the reader being happy too (although if you keep waiting for creepy ghostliness you will be disappointed).

Trina and her father have bounced around the country all her life, from one house fixing project to the next.  None of the houses they repair are theirs, so it's always on to the next one, and the next one here is a doozy--a dilapidated Queen Anne mansion named Goldenrod, sitting in the middle of Iowa cornfields, that all the local folks think is cursed.  It is certainly spooky enough to warrant its reputation, with all the old house accoutrements of flickering lights, strange noises, and drafts, but Trina's father firmly tells her that there are no such thing as ghosts. 

It does not occur to him to tell her that there is no such thing as sentient dolls. 

The doll was asleep in its dollhouse bed, but woke when Trina found the way into the secret old playroom, and started conversing with her.  Lonely Trina, who never has had the chance to live anywhere long enough to make friends, does not run screaming, but accepts that the doll is in some measure alive. They become confidants, sharing a love of stories, and encouraging each other as needed.  Both need the encouragement--Trina finds it hard to make friends in the small town where she goes to school, the doll, Augustine, has lost her parents (other dolls, of course), and Trina is about to find her father has been keeping secrets from her about her own mother (who took off years ago to live an exciting life of her own).

Goldenrod, the old house, also is in need of encouragement and hope, and Trina, once she gets over her fear of ghosts, begins to listen to what the house seems to tell her.  As she and her father work to make it bright and shinny again, the townsfolk come to terms with their own past relationships to the house, and bring back all the things belonging to it that they or their families had taken as dares over the years, which had seemingly brought them all bad luck.

All ends well (even a day at school in which Trina has a too chatty Augustine in her pocket ends up without disaster) and there are, in fact, no ghosts, though there are quite a few secrets.  I am not sure I picked up on all the secrets.  The blurb says:   "With help from Augustine, Trina realizes Goldenrod is trying to tell her an important secret, one that may just change her life."  Um...my own feeling was that Goldenrod was actually saying things more along the lines of "I want my furniture back" and "I like my new paint" and "a party sure would cheer up a lonely old house" and "don't put my new septic system where someone is buried" and possibly "a family house needs a family."  But I feel the blurb writer was thinking of something Bigger....beats me.

But in any event, if you love books about lonely girls moving into old houses, and finding friends despite rocky starts, with bonus details like making dollhouse curtains and reading fairy tales to a talking doll,  you will enjoy this one lots.


  1. Sounds like the blurb writer was on automatic pilot, using the usual keywords you get on back covers without regard to actual content. The book sounds charming though! Nice cover, too.

  2. Hmm, would I enjoy this even without creepiness?? Haha, it does sound like a sweet story, though.

    1. I know someone who kept waiting for creepiness, and felt cheated when it didn't come, so perhaps not :)


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