Laura loved the elegant old house that she and her parents moved into, but she hated being different from everyone at school. Who else’s mother makes huge sculptures in the dining room? What other dad stays up all night writing?
Exploring the falling-apart rooms and imagining their former beauty is interesting, and soon Laura is trying to find out more about why there's an Italianate villa in their dusty Australian town. Mrs. Murphy said that Mr. Visconti built it for his bride-to-be who never got to live in it.
When Leon moved in with his grandmother and joined Laura’s junior high class, he ignored the teasing better than she could. As she tracks down Mr. Visconti’s history, Leon’s viewpoints lead to other clues.
Can they discover why Mr. Visconti’s beloved never got to live in the beautiful house? Where is the statue that once stood in its gardens? And why did Leon suddenly move here, anyway?
Mystery, misunderstandings, and maybe a ghost! Plan on visiting The Visconti House with Laura and Leon soon!
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA
Eighth grader Laura Horton is not comfortable in her own skin. She thinks she would be if she were home-schooled and this is what she asks her parents to do each day they roust her out of bed. She feels that she doesn’t fit in at her school, her hair is curly, her eye-brows bushy, she's dreamy and loves to write, she has no idea how to gossip with her classmates, and she lives in that house. She and her artist parents recently moved into crumbling mansion known as The Visconti House, aka the Haunted House, with the hope of someday restoring it. Laura loves the house and has already explored much of it.
Leon, a new boy, slightly shabby, what with his old clothes and choppy haircut, intrigues her. He lives with his grandmother close by Laura's house and already everyone is whispering about him. The most popular rumor is that his father is in prison for murder. He always carries a book around with him and, when the boys at school grab it from him, he's willing to fight to get it back. That earns him some grudging respect, but no one wants to befriend him. Laura would, but she's fearful about her own social currency if she does.
The two form a tentative friendship when he reveals an interest in the house. Laura gives him a tour and learns a bit from Leon's grandmother, who was a little girl when Mr. Visconti lived, all alone, in the house. Leon and Laura thoroughly search the house, do research at the library, and attempt to interview a cranky, fussy, old lady whose family may have known Mr. Visconti. As the two grow closer over their shared interest in the history of the house, Laura frets that her schoolmates will discover the friendship and humiliate her.
The story is a lovely melange of friendship and mystery, with a dash of history and the possibility of romance past and present. Who is the audience for this lovely story? A thoughtful, patient reader, who isn't interested in a lot of action; one who is interested in character development or atmosphere; one who likes books about friendship.
Recommended by Brenda Kahn, Librarian, New Jersey