I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog…Monday Book Love, where I rave about a book – new or old – that I absolutely adore.  It might be every Monday, or it might be monthly, depending on how I do.  Let’s be honest, I’m not so great at keeping up with this thing. But in the meantime…ONWARD.

Today’s Monday Book Love is….THE DIAMOND IN THE WINDOW by Jane Langton!*

Oh, I looooved this book.  To me, this has all the elements of a wonderful middle grade novel:

Impoverished family? Check

Noble but trapped heroes? Check

Resourceful kids? Check

A treasure hunt with high stakes? Check

Villains with varying degrees of badness, from stupid to pure evil? Check

Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson? CHECK, CHECK and CHECK!!!!

Okay, so maybe the last isn’t exactly a boilerplate recipe for all MG novels, but Jane Langton makes it work here, and how!

THE DIAMOND IN THE WINDOW is the story of Edward and Elanor Hall. They are two siblings who live in a big, ornate house in Concord, Massachusetts, home of Louisa May Alcott, Revolutionary War heroes, Henry David Thoreau, and the hideous Mr. Preek and Mrs. Prawn. The Hall children live with their wonderful Aunt Lily, who gives music lessons, and their endearing but daft Uncle Freddy, who used to be a famous Thoreau scholar until he lost his mind and started spending all his time chatting with his old friends the (long-dead) Thoreau and Emerson instead of studying them. The family is very poor, and the town – in the form of the dread Mr. Preek and Mrs. Prawn – is threatening to kick them out unless they come up with the money for back taxes.  Desperate for a way to find some money, Edward and Elanor search the whole house, and discover a hidden bedroom in the attic, complete with toys, children’s beds, and a mysterious message leading them on a treasure hunt.

And that’s when the really good stuff starts.  While there is plenty of excitement for middle grade readers, adults and older kids will love the literature, poetry, and riddles woven through the clues. The book is as much a celebration of Concord’s literary past as it is a mystery, and Langton interweaves Indian mysticism, the American Transcendental movement, and American literature together in the most amazing way.

Things that make it even better?

ACTION (but not Looney Tunes…)

PEACOCK! Stuffed, but still cool

TURBANS! And just a little romance

Boys and girls will both enjoy the story, and adults will appreciate the richness of the history woven in. I read this as a kid, reread it several times, and recently pulled out my old battered copy to give to Large Son.  And, to my utter surprise and shock, when I looked for it on Amazon, I saw that it is one of a series of books about the Halls!  How did I never know this?  So while I can only extoll the virtues of THE DIAMOND IN THE WINDOW, you can bet your Star of India that I’llbe checking out the rest of the series soon!

*Just so you know, I’m not pimping for Amazon. Get ye to your nearest Indie bookstore or wherever you like to buy your books!

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