Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

My mom checked this out of the library for me, probably as a result of a conversation we had last week about why there aren't more (or any) books where the main character is a little person.

At twelve years old, Harleigh J. Weatherby IV is still only the size of a boy half his age. He's sick of the surgeries that don't help and he's sick of people telling him what to do. His last surgery, on his heart, has made him feel better, though, and he spends his time exploring the overgrown grounds of his family's enormous ancestral mansion. He's searching specifically for the old yew maze, but what he finds instead is a girl trespassing on the property. She calls herself Allegra and claims she can fly. But not only does she know where the entrance to the maze is, she's also made some interesting observations of the family members who live in the mansion--observations that may lead to the solution of a century-old mystery.

Although Harleigh is twelve, the book seems written for much younger children. That's fine, but the writing seems a bit uneven. The characterizations are wonderful, the plot is interesting, but it starts slow and the ending seems rushed. I loved how dreamy and mysterious Allegra is, and I loved the way she influences Harleigh without her intending to and without his noticing; I didn't love how she disappears from the plot entirely after the climax of the book and the revelation of who she is turns out to be such an afterthought.

Harleigh is a stubborn, complex character. In the hands of a lesser author he might have come across as unlikable, but Zilpha Keatley Snyder makes him sympathetic with the deftest of touches. His quiet transformation is believable, even if the plot is a little too pat. The last twenty pages feel more like a summary than the ending chapters of a book.

Overall I was disappointed with The Treasures of Weatherby, although I enjoyed most of it. One of my biggest disappointments concerns Harleigh's height issues. [mild spoiler alert] Harleigh discovers partway through the book that he is actually growing, until by the end his uncle points out he's getting close to an age-appropriate height. Just once I would like to read a book with a little person character who does not start growing to normal height or turn out to be a hyperintelligent toddler (that one really infuriated me) (and I should point out quickly that I've strayed off-topic and I'm talking about a completely different book now). If anyone has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

B&N link

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