Hattie Maxwell is stressed. Ever since the Big Split, Hattie and her little sister Ivy, live a week with their mum and a week with their dad. They call it week-about. Now her beloved abandoned mansion, Hummingbird House, along with the best mulberry tree in the city, is going to be demolished to make way for apartments.
And if that’s not enough, if the apartments go ahead, her mum might move to the country and her family will never be together again. And if that is not enough, there is her friend-not-friend Taylor Dellabella, the terror of Ivy’s imaginary Eagle and her friend Patrick thinks his parents are breaking up. And if that's not enough, the rule obsessed school principal, The Enforcer (yes-not-her-real-name),wants to ban the monkey bars. And to top it all off, she has lost her library book.
When the moon is full, Hattie discovers a different Hummingbird House, where a strange orphan girl, Hypatia hides in a secret library. Could this be where she finds a way to save the house? Could saving the house get her parents back together? Can Hattie overcome her anxieties and save the house – and perhaps fix some other things in her life along the way?
I loved this book so much. I wish Hummingbird House were real so I could explore it myself (and the time travel would be a plus too!). There's a lot of great insight into the impact of divorce - or The Big Split as it's called in the book - on kids, and the intricacies of friendship too.
Julianne has written a magical, warm, funny debut and Hattie Maxwell is one of my favourite book characters this year. Such a beautiful cover illustration by Marco Guadalupi too - and that gorgeous colourful book spine & the sparkles on the front! Amazing.
When I was ten, I would have devoured this gem of a book, several times over!
The Secret Library of Hummingbird House features a mysterious old house, a secret book and time travel (amusingly, back in time to the 1970's when I was ten)! What's not to love?
Especially when it's all wrapped up with a very likeable protagonist, Hattie, going through some stuff with her recently separated parents, a younger sister with an imaginary eagle as a friend, a best friend who will no doubt realise he is gay when he is a little bit older and a mean girl at school to avoid at all costs.
Hattie already feels that life is careening out of her control, when she discovers that the crumbling mansion next door to her dad's house is slated for demolition to make way for...you guessed it, another apartment block. The house and the ancient mulberry tree growing in its grounds, hold many happy family memories for Hattie, pre-separation.
Her plans to save the house lead to a full-moon midnight escapade to the house and a chance to slip back in time to meet another young girl also feeling lost in time. A young girl who also collects lost words and has a story of her own to tell.
Set in a pre-covid Melbourne with a secret yarn-bomber covering the trees, fences and signs with crochet wraps, Julianne Negri has written a story about standing up for yourself and letting go of the past. Adapting to the inevitable changes that occur in all our lives at every stage is the thread that joins all the characters together. Everyone has their own way of avoiding or denying change before coming around to accepting that change doesn't have to be all bad, it's just different.
This book has everything an 8-12 year old reader will love, including a mystery, time travel, derring do, and an honest-to-a-painful-degree depiction of family breakdown from a kid's POV. Go forth and recommend.
I loved this book, I was hooked right from page 1. The characters were quirky but at the same time completely believable. The story is exciting, and although some serious issues are dealt with, it felt fun and light. The time travel was brilliant, and I didn’t see the twist at the end. I want to visit Hummingbird House and the Mullolly tree, and see all the books in the library, and I want to know more about Hattie and her life and adventures. All in all a perfect children’s book with just the right amount of everything.
What a gorgeous book! I absolutely adored this book and finished it within a day, so it’s pretty easy to say I loved it!
This book is beautiful both inside and out. You can tell the cover and inside illustrations were designed with so much care and attention to detail and they add so much to the magical feeling of the book.
I adored the mystery elements and I loved how they weren’t overly simplified just because its a “kids” book. There were so many elements to this story but each element was handled with so much care and explained so well! I was intrigued the whole way through and I loved how it all pieced together in the end.
Part of the reason I love reading middle-grade is reading about different familial relationships and how families fit together and this one absolutely broke my heart! To see the effects of a messy divorce (or “big-split” as they call it) had on Hattie and Ivy was so devastating and *spoiler* I appreciated how everything wasn’t perfect in the end and had a more realistic ending.
Overall this book is a beautiful read whether you are 12 or a fully fledged adult and I enjoyed reading this one the whole way through!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
What a brilliant, beautiful book!!! I absolutely loved it! This is a perfect mix of heartwarming characters, realistic and relatable problems to overcome, mystery, adventure and time travel. What else could you ask for? Hattie is struggling with the new week-about arrangements since the Big Split. She’s struggling with her often strange sister. She’s struggling with the school bully, Taylor Dellabella, and sometimes even with her best friend, Patrick. Hattie does not have a perfect life, but it’s a very real one. Which is why we totally believe it when Hattie somehow finds a way to slip through time, meets a ghost, uncovers a mystery, and has to find a way to save her favourite place - Hummingbird House and the Mullolly Tree. There is so much to enjoy in this book, from the introduction of fabulous out-of-use old words to the inspirational messages about family, friendship and bravery, and the plot is so fun and exciting that none of it feels preachy. I highly recommend this book for independent readers from about Year 4-Year 6, and as a great option for parents to read with younger children too. I can’t wait to see what else Julianne Negri comes up with!
You could give this book to almost any child, and they’d find something to love in it, even if they are fussy with their genre preferences.
This is a book that will speak to a child whose parents are going through a rough patch in the relationship, or a permanent split. It will speak to a child who feels on the outer at school. Or who yearns for the right kind of friend. Or who loves to think about time travel. Or who enjoys stories about Brunswick in Melbourne, Australia. Or who dreams of books and libraries and curious old words. Or who likes spooky houses. Or imaginary friends (who may be of the feathered variety). Or who loves it when brave kids find allies and triumph over selfish adults.
But it’s also very funny. And crazy in parts. And sweetly sad. These are characters you’ll want to keep in your heart.
It’s punchy and bright throughout, with a dependable structure. And it’s beautifully designed and feels just right in the hand, and on the eye. And when you re-shelve it, you’ll look at its pretty spine and want to pull it out when anyone near middle grade reading age visits.
Clever, entertaining and well-crafted novel aimed at primary school-aged children. Good characters and a great plot. If you're looking for a Christmas present for children in that age group, I highly recommend this.
Quaint story and very relatable for children from split families and the juggling of having 2 houses etc Focused on family relationships - what mum does and what dad does etc And the Hummingbird House mansion that is run down and they are trying to save from being demolished Hattie the main character then goes into a time travel to learn about the history of the house - so the story gets a bit magical with ghosts and stories and libraries of the past Obviously at the end the mansion is saved
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.