The House of Hidden Wonders – Sharon Gosling

This is an incredible read that children will undoubtedly enjoy immensely, especially as it combines historical details and historical figures within an utterly brilliant story of survival and adventure. The story has a timeless feel reminiscent of classics such as Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist as the main character’s are children living within the streets and abandoned buildings (of Victorian Edinburgh) whilst surviving day to day in poor living conditions.

Victorian Edinburgh is also the time period and location author Sharon Gosling chose to focus on in her previous title The Golden Butterfly which explains the fantastic attention to detail in and around the Scottish city during that time period that both books are credited with, which is consequently brought to life in the imaginations of readers so vividly with her powerful combination of descriptive writing and engaging storytelling, reading this book really feels like a treat.

Zinnie, Sadie and Nell may not be sisters by blood but they are united by their need to survive amongst the underground streets of Edinburgh, always trying to stay two steps ahead of danger whilst doing what it takes to ensure they do not starve. One enterprise that seems fruitful for the girls is Zinnie’s connection with a young Arthur Conan Doyle, pre his infamous writing days. As incidents in the area leave him curious and looking for answers, he turns to Zinnie for an extra pair of eyes and ears to help uncover the truth as to what is going on in the local area.

While investigating details for Mr Doyle it soon becomes apparent there is more than meets the eye going on around the streets that Zinnie is familiar with, and whilst balancing the worry of Nell becoming unwell and fearing the girls would soon find themselves separated it falls to Zinnie to combine her local knowledge and acquaintances to save the day by discovering who is responsible for recent crimes being committed whilst also keeping a promise she makes to help a child she discovers in hiding reveal the truth from her past and find peace.

The book has a spooky feel in places as Zinnie works with her newest sister from the streets to reveal the trail of lies and deceit that one adult has left behind them everywhere they have been. In order to captivate the right audience the girls agree to combine all the talents they have, and together look to find justice for so many more then they first suspected, and maybe even find a way to remain together too. The girls may face daily struggles just to ensure they have a meal to eat but they never lose faith, hope and a determination to be there for one another, whilst doing what is right.

It is these values combined with the strength the girls display that make them such amazing role models for young readers, especially as the girls reflect loyalty and trustworthiness in everything they do. The depiction of crime and wrongdoing committed by adults in the story being the dark, awful and at times slightly terrifying behaviours we as the reader witness are in complete contrast to any crimes committed by the children who do so in order to restore the balance between good and bad. It is a testament to how immersed you are as the reader that you never question actions such trespassing or theft that the children within the book do, particularly when you are willing them to be successful in their sneaking around, eager for the girls to be safe and happy, and get the heartwarming happy ending they seem deserving of from the very first chapter of the book through to the end.

The House of Hidden Wonders is published by Stripes Publishing and is available to purchase now from all good booksellers.

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