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The Humming Room

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  3,627 ratings  ·  479 reviews

Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.

As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island.

Hardcover, 192 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
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Newbery 2013
22nd out of 116 books — 1,104 voters
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Community Reviews

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I guess I should start by telling you how much I love the classics - how I was this weird little girl who read Oliver Twist like 45 times, or got more excited about the box of illustrated classics I got for Christmas when I was 9 than I was for the toys (in fact, I remember none of the toys, but still have most of the books). And I should probably tell you about how much I adore Francis Hodgson Burnett, and have read The Secret Garden more times than should be mentioned in polite society.

Oh friends, I love reading books that just fuel my love of the middle grade category. The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a very small book. Your eye might not even see it on the shelf – which is quite unfortunate. I’ve not seen much fanfare for The Humming Room which is a shame, because it’s a quiet, beautifully written take on The Secret Garden.
Read the rest of my review here.
The writing was superb, but unfortunately the story was too similar to the original story, The Secret Garden. What started off as a fresh tale with quirky characters turned into a predictable and, at times, disappointing rehash of the great classic.

I understand the author's intent was to retell the original story, but felt she needed to claim it as her own. Early in the book there was the suggestion of an other-worldly force at work, which seemed capable of giving this story a new twist. Unfortu...more
Before picking up the book, I had no idea that it was closely based on The Secret Garden. I just knew Ellen Potter wrote it, and I think she's an excellent writer. Honestly, if the inside cover hadn't mentioned The Secret Garden, I still wouldn't have known for a while, because it was not immediately obvious. (Once it becomes obvious, though, it is quite obvious.) I know some readers haven't liked how closely it mirrors the original story, but I thought the characters and setting were unique eno...more
Jun 08, 2012 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: YA lovers, MG lovers, people who liked The Secret Garden, lazy day reading
Roo starts the book off pretty rough. Well, it started way before we came in on the story, but we find that out as we go along. Her father and his girlfriend were killed, leaving Roo all alone. Not that things were all that great before, she was never dressed properly, never fed well, and she preferred the company of dirt over people. Her knack of hiding comes in handy when her uncle takes custody of her. Not only does she find some amazing new hiding spots, but she learns a little more about li...more
First Impressions:

Ana: Sometimes my book-reading decisions are very easy to make: I wanted to read The Humming Room on the strengths of its cover alone. I knew nothing of it when I started reading it and didn’t realise it was a retelling of The Secret Garden (haven’t read that book) until I was done and read the blurb. I read the book without any expectations whatsoever and even though I have a few reservations, I really enjoyed this story.

Thea: I, too, was immediately struck by the lovely cover...more
Nicole Sobon
The story begins with Roo hiding beneath her trailer, after her father and his girlfriend are murdered. Shortly after, Roo is taken to live with her uncle - a man that she's never met, on Cough Rock. Used to being left on her own, Roo struggles to deal with the watchful eyes of her uncle's staff. She finds herself wondering off throughout her new home, discovering that there are many secrets hidden on Cough Rock.

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Humming Room". Roo is a truly fantastic character. I love...more
Oct 23, 2013 R.j. added it
I loved this book even more than I loved the classic it's based on, and I don't say that lightly. Everything that rubbed me the wrong way about THE SECRET GARDEN (especially the Disability Fail) is dealt with beautifully here, and Roo's tough background makes her personality utterly believable and maintains the reader's sympathies (though NOT their pity, because Roo is far too strong and dynamic a character to be pitied). I adored the supporting cast, Jack especially, and the way the author make...more
Hesitant about a rewrite of one of my favorite books, I was pleased to read the last page feeling that this book's connection to The Secret Garden actually enhanced the experience. Many of my students want to read that classic, but the language (including the Yorkshire dialect and accent of some characters) makes it inaccessible to most non-native speakers for several years. Abridged versions have their place, but aren't the best solution. The Humming Room, however, has its own merits, distinct...more
Potter narrates The Humming Room with a finesse and a skill that makes reading the novel a true (serious) pleasure. Roo Fanshaw is an amazing protagonist. She is half wild, existing in a world that measures space and how she can use it to conceal herself. Her world is entirely different from the world that adults exist in and I love how Potter doesn’t spell out Roo’s early home life to the reader and instead hints at it in a way that older readers will catch it while the younger readers may not...more
Oct 02, 2014 Lizzy added it
Shelves: kids-books
Most people assume that being strong or tough is the skill that will protect you and save you, help you survive when you're in a dangerous situation, but Roo Fanshaw sees it differently. Her special skill is hiding, being able to disappear at a moment’s notice. Roo has spent most of her life hiding, finding the smallest spaces to curl herself into. It is in these small spaces that she feels able to breathe freely; in fact, open spaces make her feel enclosed, as if she can't breath. It is Roo’s h...more
Almost four stars. I like Potter's writing and characters. This one didn't feel as risky (or as meaningful) as The Kneebone Boy (and now I can hear Peter Sieruta's voice in my head, saying "well, maybe I'll actually like this one, then; it's an intriguing premise, an updated version of The Secret Garden"). I loved the Secret Garden parallels in the first few chapters--the hiding, the being transported away to her uncle's place by the housekeeper/personal assistant--but rather wished that things...more
Sierra Abrams
The Humming Room by Ellen Potter
Pages: 192
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Date Read: 2012, January 14th-16th
Received: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended to: 11+

Roo Fanshaw is small for her age, and very shy. Her father, a man who dappled in illegal activities for a long time, has just been murdered, leaving Roo alone and in the custody of whoever will take her. When she is taken from her home to her eccentric Uncle's house on an island, Roo finds this harder to bear than al...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
I absolutely adore retellings of classic tales, and Potter's reimagining of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden is no exception. Although she didn't make too many changes to the basic plot, she did manage to make the story her own.

Much of that comes from the changes in Roo's character and background. She has the stubbornness and touchiness of Mary, but, in her case, this is not born of indolence or having been spoiled. Instead, it seems that she was largely neglected and not given enough...more
To start off with fairness this is an MG read, not my forte but if the story sounds intriguing enough I'll snag it. THE HUMMING ROOM fit this profile. I keep a special place in my cockle area for things related to THE SECRET GARDEN so when I saw that this book was influenced by it I accepted it for review. It was definitely a riveting story but the ending was abrupt, a blink and you miss it kind of thing that derailed the rest of the work for me perhaps a little more than what it should have.

First I'd like to say that though it says this novel was inspired by The Secret Garden, I thought I was reading a Middle Grade version of Jane Eyre. Yes, there were a lot of differences, but the gothic setting, the hidden room, the crying, the secret rooms. It all reminded me of Jane Eyre. But despite all that, I have to say, I loved Roo Fanshaw! This is a kid that has been through it all. She was hiding under her trailer, playing with the glass garden she had planted under there while the polic...more
The Humming Room by Ellen Potter, inspired by The Secret Garden, is the story of Roo who is adopted by her uncle, after Roo's parents die, and taken to Cough Island on the St. Lawrence, where whe discovers a sick cousin and a (almost) destroyed, closed-up garden.

I really enjoyed parts of The Humming Room, particularly the character of Roo, and the evocative descriptions of the river, island and the wildlife. Potter makes you feel the isolation of the island. Violet added needed warmth. Other cha...more
After The Kneebone Boy of course I was going to read Ellen Potter’s newest book. It didn’t hurt that it sounded intriguing, and that it was inspired by Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden did not serve as a detractor either. In short, The Humming Room was going to be win-win-win. And turns out–it is!

I am going to admit to you that I am not the biggest fan of The Secret Garden, primarily because I found the characters incredibly annoying. The blame lies completely with me, I’m sure. Howev...more
I am disappointed with this book.

On the one hand, it's a not bad story of Roo Fanshaw, an orphaned girl taken in by her uncle, who discovers new friends and brings a neglected garden back to life.

On the other hand, it's a complete retread of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, almost scene for scene and character for character.

The author says outright this book was "inspired" by Burnett's classic. That's probably a good thing, because otherwise she would probably be at the center of a f...more
Stephanie D.

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a fantastic, modern retelling of The Secret Garden. In fact, other than the names and the setting, The Humming Room closely follows the beloved original. So why read The Humming Room, you say, instead of just re-reading The Secret Garden?

I give you – Roo. Distrustful and tough, wild and willful, Roo endeared herself to me from the first page. Something about Potter’s sharp and unsentimental description of the flatness of her green eyes, were they should be ali...more
Leslie Preddy
Oct 11, 2012 Leslie Preddy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: grades 4-7
With a captivating beginning, we find Roo hiding and know something terrible has happened to her family. Up to now, Roo has lived a rough life with a father who doesn’t know how to properly care for her. By age 12 she has learned how to guard herself. Wild, self-preserving Roo is sent to live with a previously unknown, wealthy uncle and she moves to his island, called Cough Rock, where there are very few inhabitants. Although it is a family home, there is some curiosity and eeriness about it for...more
Pamela ☼where's my aspirin☼ Tee
Sometimes this is exactly the sort of book I crave. One that's well written and all bundled up with good characters and a little gothic-styled mystery. One where you can't quite tell if the author wants you to take the trek over to fantasy land, or whether everything is well seated in Reality.

It doesn't matter to me whether the target audience is adults or middle graders, as long as the story is good. And that's exactly what I got with THE HUMMING ROOM --a nicely composed book for Tweeners-on-up...more
Susan P
When we first meet 12-year-old Rue she is hiding under the trailer she calls home. Something terrible has happened and the police are looking for her. It turns out that she is now an orphan, which is not actually a bad thing in her case b/c up until this point her life has been one of neglect and abuse. The police discover that Roo has a wealthy uncle she never knew about, and she is shipped off to his mansion on Cough Rock Island (so named b/c the house used to be a sanitorium for children with...more
Let’s say we have a conversation about classic children’s literature. And when I say classic, what I really mean is old/classic (books over 120 years young!). The first ones that pop into my head are Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I have read both of these novels multiple times, but the latter is one that has aged well as I have gone from child to adult. Its story and characterization never grow…old.

Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room is a retelling...more
Dot Hutchison
Roo Fanshaw knows about hiding. She finds the small places, the forgotten places, and listens to the sounds of the earth. After her parents’ deaths, she’s sent to Cough Rock to live with an uncle she’s never met, or even heard of. At first sight it’s nothing to inspire- a former children’s sanitorium, Cough Rock is a cold, forbidding place full of secrets. Like the humming Roo hears through the halls. Like the uncle who vanishes for long periods of time. Like the river boy who isn’t tied to anyt...more
I'm impressed that Potter was able to do a novel based so closely on The Secret Garden that I still enjoyed. I mean, TSG is one of my all-time favorites, and I've read it more than a dozen times (seriously). I'm a hard one to impress.

What I liked: Potter kept the "feel" of the original amazingly well, despite its modern setting. Some of the details she worked in were quite fun to discover (like the snake in the beginning, the hat on Mrs. Metzger's/Ms. Valentine's lap in the train, the tame squir...more
The Humming Room by Ellen Potter is a modern retelling of The Secret Garden. The tale begins when Roo's parents are killed. After a short stay in foster care she is taken in by her uncle who lives in an old children's hospital that is located on an island. Roo slowly explores the island and the home she is living in both of which are filled with secrets to be uncovered.

I loved this book. It is a fantastic retelling for fans of the story (and for fans of the movie who aren't strong enough readers...more
i love Ellen Potter's writing style. her stories aren't predictable nor are they boring but she definitely makes you keep turning the pages.

i'm always slightly creeped out by her stories but i love her connection with nature and fascinating characters such as Roo and Jack and
the name Roo Fanshaw is brilliant.
i just feel like saying it a lot. =D

so the book is beautifully written and i don't really remember The Secret Garden but i do recall it was a great adventure and reading the humming room w...more
Texas Bluebonnet Award/Nomination

Potter, E. (2012). The humming room. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends.

At twelve years old, Roo Fanshaw has experienced more than most preteens. Her drug-dealing father and his latest girlfriend are killed, leaving Roo to foster care, until a previously unknown uncle sends for her. He lives on Cough Rock, a mysterious island where children with tuberculosis once were housed in a hospital he has renovated into a home. Eerily, ro...more
Destinee Sutton
For thoughts on this being "inspired by The Secret Garden" see my review of The Secret Garden.

Things I will remember about this book: the ship flying through the trees, violent waves crashing together to make a calm surface, putting your ear to ground to listen for life, the way Ellen Potter's narrator talks to the reader at the very beginning and end of the story.
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Roo F. 2 16 Oct 21, 2012 05:46AM  
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Ellen Potter (born 1973) is an American author of both children's and adult's books (as Ellen Toby-Potter). She grew up in Upper West Side, New York and studied creative writing at Binghamton University and now lives in Candor in upstate New York. She has been a contributor to Cimarron Review, Epoch, The Hudson Review, and Seventeen. Her novel Olivia Kidney was winner of the Child Magazine Best Bo...more
More about Ellen Potter...
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