3 out of 4 stars
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One of my favorite ways to stretch myself culturally is by visiting a museum and taking in the paintings. I especially like the ones that look as if the person's eyes are following the viewer. So it was with great interest that I downloaded my copy of The Haunted Painting on the Wall by Devika A. Rosamund. In this tween tale, siblings Tracy and Sebastian visit their Great-Great-Aunt's castle, which is rumored to be haunted. They've also heard that there's a secret treasure in the castle and are interested in trying to find it. Teaming up with the housekeeper's children, Kevin and Beattie, they search for the treasure, but find more than they bargained for. Perhaps they should have taken heed of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for". How the picture plays a role in all of this is something you'll have to read the book to find out.
I thought this was a wonderful story that will hold its intended audience's attention from start to finish. While it's not chock-full of action, it does have enough suspenseful moments to keep younger readers on the edge of their seats. At the same time, however, it's not so scary that it will cause undue stress on its readers. I was especially captivated with the climax and thought it an outstanding way to finish off a great tale.
I was also well-pleased with the characterizations of all involved. The children were suitably child-like, not too perfect like some younger characters I've read about. There was sibling rivalry and squabbling, but also an underlying love that saved the day. They seemed just like my brother and me once upon a time. The adults were also well-written. Aunt Alice was older and somewhat maternal, but I was amused by her habit of taking out her hearing aids when she didn't want to hear things. Kevin and Beattie's mother, Marjorie, was also like most of the mothers I know, strict but loving with a tendency to repeat instructions. Tracy and Sebastian's parents only appear briefly in the book, but I also found them to be properly parental.
The scenery in The Haunted Painting on the Wall was described well, such that I had no problems picturing the castle and its grounds. There were also black-and-white drawings scattered throughout the book – maybe once midway through every other chapter or so – that helped me to further sink into the book's world. I thought the use of illustrations was perfect for this age-group - not as many as for younger children, but not completely picture-less either.
The one gripe I have about this tome was the author's comma usage; the punctuation marks tended to be either missing or overused. Devika is from Bristol, though, so it's possibly just the way things are done in England. One example sentence that I badly wanted to edit was, "“I think if there really was a secret chamber with hidden treasure then somebody would have found it, by now, after all these years,” said her father." There was also one inconsistency. Even though their Great-Great-Aunt had taken her aforementioned hearing aids out for the night, the author wrote that the children "tiptoed along the corridor so as not to awaken Aunt Alice". There were no misspellings or syntax errors, but as much as I'd like to give the author the benefit of the doubt and not take off a point for editing, I have to. Additionally, even though I noticed these [possible] missteps, they didn't take away from my overall reading enjoyment. I also liked her English writing insofar as actual word usage. For example, she referred to hues as "colours" and referenced flashlights as "torches", which are entirely different items in America.
Overall, I thought The Haunted Painting on the Wall was a great ride, and I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book for tweens (ages 9-12, per Amazon) as well as for adults who like tamer tales of suspense.
The Haunted Painting on the Wall
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