Shala Howell's Reviews > The Secret Staircase

The Secret Staircase by Jill Barklem
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's review
Nov 18, 11

bookshelves: childrens-books
Read in November, 2011

For the story, think Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit stories with mice and without the sometimes surprising lapses into violence that forcibly remind you that Potter wrote in a different cultural context. In Potter's world, Mr. MacGregor has a distressing habit of stalking through the pages taking potshots at the cast with his shotgun. That sort of thing doesn't happen in the Brambly Hedge.

So a charming story, but it was the illustrations with their incredibly rich detail that won my heart. Small wonder each drawing took Jill Barklem three months to complete. (Each book in the series is the product of two years' effort.)

My favorites are the ones that dissect the trees where the mice make their homes. I could spend hours staring at all the little rooms the mice have carved out of the tree, complete with tiny furnishings, winding staircases, and halls. The Four-Year-Old, on the other hand, would prefer to spend those hours staring at the illustration of the room at the top of the Secret Staircase, with its spider webs, columns, detailed tapestries, mice statues, and especially the little suit of mouse armor standing guard on the side.

(For a longer review of this series, visit my blog or see my review of the Complete Brambly Hedge here on Goodreads.)

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