Monday, October 1, 2018

October's Book of the Month--Elizabeth and Zenobia

October’s Book of the Month is the deliciously creepy middle grade debut, ELIZABETH AND ZENOBIA, by Jessica Miller.

Elizabeth Murmur’s mother has run off ("with the opera singer who understudied for the role of Tamino" in The Magic Flute). Now her father, who has stopped going to work, stopped "writing articles about seed dispersal patterns in the dandelion genus,” and has really “just, somehow, stopped,” is moving the two of them back to Witheringe House, where he lived as a child.

Actually, there are three of them, if you count Zenobia—and you really should. Zenobia is Elizabeth’s only friend, and she’s bold and daring, where Elizabeth is meek and afraid. Zenobia’s not imaginary, even though “it’s true no one except [Elizabeth] can see her.”

While Zenobia gleefully investigates the possibility of a Spirit Presence in Witheringe House, Elizabeth stumbles upon a sinister secret the house is keeping. A forbidden East Wing, a mostly dead hedge maze, and a fanciful story that appears only at midnight in a stuffy old book written by Elizabeth’s father long ago all add to the strong sense of Other that permeates ELIZABETH AND ZENOBIA.

Yet, in addition to the otherworldly factor, this is a poignant story about a girl who feels invisible. At Witheringe House, Elizabeth hopes that maybe her father "will stop remembering Mother [is] gone, and start remembering [Elizabeth is] there.”

ELIZABETH AND ZENOBIA would hold its own on a bookshelf next to Holly Black’s Doll Bones, and Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, which is high praise, indeed!


PS--From the cover and all the way through, the art is vaguely unsettling, thoroughly lovely, and perfectly enhances the text.

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