Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: Secret Melody

Secret Melody
By: Elizabeth V. Roach         
Published by: CreateSpace     Date: October 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781453770542
Price: $6.50
Ages: 8-12
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by: Nancy Messmore

Synopsis: High in the Andes Mountains, Alberto and his sister Mariela live with their aunt and uncle.  Mama and Papa moved to America when the Night People, or terrorists, started rounding up the “leaders” in their village.  Finally, after four years, Papa has sent a letter asking that his children join them in New York City.  While their aunt and uncle are leery of sending the children with a stranger, “Mister” is the only way to get the children from Peru to New York.  Alberto’s instincts about the sinister Mister are well-founded.  He keeps his promise to protect Mariela and they escape from Mister.  Unfortunately, that is the beginning of the real, scary adventure as they journey from rural South America to the urban streets of New York City.  Will both children make it home to their parents safely?

Overall thoughts: My heart was in my throat for a good portion of this book!  What an experience for children to have!  Unfortunately, the story of Alberto and Mariela is not purely fiction as we discover on the nightly news.  However, their deep, abiding faith is a lesson for all of us.  And, the happy ending makes this a breath-taking adventure story appropriate to the recommended age group.

Aside from the adrenaline-rush of an adventure, Secret Melody is a multicultural story.  The author has done a wonderful job of incorporating the language, food and culture of the children into the story.  Her descriptions of the Peruvian landscape are so vivid I could picture the mountainside field where the sheep graze.  A glossary of foreign words provides a fantastic learning tool at the end of the book.  Children studying South America in upper elementary or middle school social studies classes would benefit from reading this book. 

My only criticism of the book is based on a pet peeve.  The book was printed with frequent punctuation typographical errors.  While predominantly annoying, they would probably not get noticed by children except where quotation marks are missing at the beginning of dialogue.

The book’s author, Elizabeth Roach, is a member of Maryknoll Sisters, a Roman Catholic Religious Order.  She spent years as an educator in Bolivia and Peru.  Her experiences there have flowed into the descriptions on the pages of this book.  Indeed, her background has shaped the story in its portrayal of faith, social justice and ethnic pride. 

In summary, I could not put down this story.  The adventure kept my adrenaline pumping.  The descriptive passages painted vivid images that I can still call up in my imagination.  And the subtext of faith and hope were uplifting.


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