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Through the Hidden Door

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Barry Penniman has every reason to get out of Winchester Boys' Academy as fast as he can. His former friends, five boys known as the untouchables, are out for revenge, and the headmaster has given him an ultimatum -- transfer now with glowing recommendations or graduate later with a dismal record and perhaps a few broken bones. Only one other boy will so much as speak to B ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published 1987 by Dial
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  184 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Feb 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: realism, younger
Whoa, downer. I was expecting some dark elements, based on the blurbed backstory of a boy at boarding school in hot water with his teachers and peers, but I was also expecting something fantastical "through the hidden door." Instead we get an implausible minor interlude punctuating the grimness of horrible boys and a horrible teacher bullying a smart kid who made a mistake -- the mistake of being friends with them in the first place.

And don't expect a happy ending, either. This is not a book to
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Boys in their formative years, adventure seekers, archeology buffs, cavers.
I read this book when I was in approximately the 5th or 6th grade. It had a profound impact on my development as a child. It left an indelible mark on me and my future interests. For years after reading this I wanted to be an archaeologist. To this day I love exploring caves (although usually accompanied by a guide). To this day, I think often of this book. The only problem was that I had long since forgotten the title, but not the story and not the lessons. It took me years to find it again. Yo ...more
This was a quick read, but some of the themes are dark. I am not giving this book a star rating because of the themes, but it is worth reading.

The main theme that runs through the story is bullying. So be warned if it is a trigger for you.

Granted this story came out in the 1980's, but considering what is happening with the film industry this book has become pertinent again. And just to waylay fears, no sexual abuse happens in this story.
At his boarding school, Barney was part of the worst group of jock bullies--even though he was really a nerd (they needed someone to do their homework). When an incident of cruelty allows Barney a chance at redemption while his buddies are expelled, he discovers that money and power can buy pretty much anything--including a reversal of expulsion. With his former pals out for revenge, Barney teams up with oddball Snowy, who subscribes to Soldier of Fortune magazine and claims to have made an amaz ...more
It is always troubling to me that reviewers/readers do not comment on Native/American Indian content in books like THROUGH THE HIDDEN DOOR.

The info provided in this book is SO WRONG. Wampanoags are gone? Really?! How can we let that pass by us, into the hands of children?

Details at my site, American Indians in Children's Literature:
Isela Filoteo
I've always wanted to read this book but I've never had the time and when I finally get to read what the book is about i was totally confused it didn't really settle the with what they were talking about it and my favorite character was snow he was more kept to himself and always one step of all the other kids he was the one who found the cave and he didn't trust anyone to know the path and only he knew what it could be and no one can get out but he only trusted a little bit this other ...more
Read decades ago. It was very different. Not a happy ending and a bit brutal in places. I remember it mostly for the very interesting archeology and the idea that fire cannot be sized/scaled---hence the confirmed authenticity of the find. However apparently there is a fairly disturbing dog torture scene at the beginning that I managed to block out, so I won't be re-reading this any time soon.
Hendrix Eva
So glad I never went to a boys prep school. Loved the bits about discovering the cave's many secrets.
Azul Aguirre
When I first read that Through The Hidden Door had parts about archaeology, I was not really interested in reading it, but when I read the whole thing, I found out that it was actually very fascinating. I especially enjoyed the parts where they talk about the things that they found. Rosemary Wells writes in a way that makes us feel like we are in the cave that the two boys are in. ”How are we going to find anything in this...this freezing underground desert? Even in a parka and a vest I’m cold.” ...more
Ruth E. R.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: boys ages 10-14
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathleen Pacious
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-ok
Through the Hidden Door, originally published in 1987, offers a thought-provoking read about loyalty, hypocrisy and friendship. Barney Penniman is a student at Winchester, an exclusive boarding school, who has fallen in with the bully crowd as a form of self-protection. After an incident of animal cruelty, Barney reveals which boys were involved (his friends) and the bullies are punished. However, a change in school leadership threatens Barney’s continued stay at Winchester and his safety. As a ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I really like this book, but its a bit of an odd bird. I keep forgetting the name and then having to go searching for it on whats the name of that book forums. I think that's because the name doesn't really fit the book. There aren't any hidden doors, but instead a hidden cave. Also, the cover of the edition I has a tagline that reads "You can go in, but you might never come out" making it seem very ominous. This isn't a scary book.

Wells starts off the book with a very sad and uncomfortable to
Elizabeth K.
Mar 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Lara
Shelves: 2014-new-reads
This was my Book Forcening choice from Lara. It was a fun read, I didn't know much about it going in so I didn't have any expectations. It turns out it's boarding school (boys), with a lot of what would now be considered bullying behavior, and then the discovery of a secret, mysterious cave.

Especially if I had read this as a kid, I would have LOVED that it includes sketches by the protagonist of the stuff they found in the cave. I always felt that was lacking from a lot of YA mysteri
Interesting adventure stroy. Barney, the main character finds himself in a very "Chocolate War" type situation when his boarding school headmaster, some teachers and a gang of bullies who used to be his chums try forcing him to switch schools. He joins with another outcast who believes he has found an ancient Pygmy city. And, of course, they excavate it together? However dumb it sounds, it actually is a pretty good read. It is short and is, for the most part, fun.

I would be hesitant to recommen
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Barney should want to get out of Winchester; he has every reason to want to leave. His former friends are out for revenge and the Headmaster definitely isn't on his side. The Headmaster gives Barney two choices, he can leave the school and he will get great recommendations so he can get into any school. Or he can stay and have a bad record.

But Barney stays. He can't leave, not after visiting the cave. He has to find out what or who was there.

I can't say this is one of my
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-books-read
Rosemary Wells is a prolific writer of picture books as well as young adult books.

Two boys, unlikely allies since one is in sixth-grade and the other in eighth-grade, living at a boarding school for boys and not making friends easily embark on a great and secret adventure.

The eighth-grader had become part of a group of sadistic jock bullies only because he wanted friends; in return for his being part of the group, he had to help them cheat on exams and to pull pranks that they told
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
I got this as an ARC through netgalley, not realizing until after I started it that this is actually an old book. It's very obvious, through context, that it's dated. Right away that makes me think that most middle-grade kids won't be interested. Also, the beginning of the book was brutal and very upsetting. The majority of middle-grade readers we get in my store are extremely sensitive when it comes to anything that's sad, unsettling or violent and as I result I don't see how this would go over ...more
Excalibur Snape
The cover on netgalley was way cooler.
I almost didn't finish reading this book because of the beginning. I won't read anything were dogs are bullied, killed,or die of natural causes.
Though I'm glad in this case I decided to solider on LOL anyone who has read this book will understand. Another thing I didn't like about this book was all the snake references again all those who have read the book will know what I'm talking about.
Besides these few things this is an interesting rea
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barney has made friends with the trouble makers at his boarding school. In order to be their friend, he has done many things he knows to be wrong. Animal cruelty, however, is one he cannot go along with. Once ostracized from his former friends - now enemies, he befriends Snowy, a legally blind boy who is searching for something in a cave. Snowy needs Barney's help and together they unearth a fascinating discovery. In the midst of it all, Barney learns about honesty, loyalty and friendship. I did ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most finely crafted YA novels I’ve read,
a tale of courage and grace in the face of peer and adult
bullying, a story of growth under the most difficult yet
common experiences, one of those classic YA novels
that would provide intriguing sources of class discussion and
writing prompts for classroom use.

Through the Hidden Door deserves to be recognized by the various award committees as a significant contribution to young adult literature.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is awesome. The story is extremley unrealistic but it's written so realistically. It's about two boys who find a cave and discover that it seems a society of really small people used to live there.
Grace ᵔᴥᵔ
I read this book a while ago but just never marked it on my Goodreads, so I don't remember much of it. But I do know that I thought the friendship formed between the two main characters was adorable, but I didn't care for the ending that much, though it's not a bad ending.
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have an older version, but I'm glad to see they have re-published this novel. Wells does a great job at weaving in the most interesting aspects of archeology and discovering lost tribes along with the general plotline of a boyhood friendship, bullying, and even survival.
Anna Shiverdecker
This is one of my favorite childhood books and I decided to reread it. It was better when I was younger, but I still really loved it and it really impacted me when I was young and for a good reason. I recommend this book to everyone. I think it hasn't gotten nearly enough attention.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fiction, 2014
I think Elizabeth's review sums up how I felt about it, though I actually wanted MORE about the cave, because I am greedy. Also because I love tiny things. I could have read about the tiny awesome things for quite a bit longer.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I was interested in archeology at one point... This is actually a good book for it. The main char finds a cave, something great is in it... will he use it, take it? Or will it change and end everything?
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was amazing! I thought I would like it when I bought it, and boy was I right! It was suspenseful with a great story line, and even though it didn't end like I wanted it to, it ended just the way it should have. A wonderful read all around!
Mar 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teen boys
Shelves: young-adult
The beginning of this novel is very intense and brutal. I enjoyed this story of personal integrety. I liked the ending as well.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I first read this book in 7th grade. A re-read was a fun jaunt down memory lane, and the book is still fun and "thrilling." Good times, easy read.
Artifice Magazine
The cover I have is more R.L. Steinish than this one.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Rosemary Wells is the author of a number of popular children's books, most notably the Max and Ruby series which follows the everyday adventures of sibling bunnies - curious three year old Max and bossy seven year old Ruby. She gets the inspiration for Max and Ruby from her two daughters and the experiences