I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this book from NetGalley. I enjoyed reading it. For those who like to read fairy tale type books with princesses and castles and evil witches, this book will be fun to read. Violet and her mother have been held prisoner by the evil Queen Bogdana ever since Violet was born. The two have spent over ten years locked up in a remote tower on the castle grounds. Their caretakers, George and Maggie, bring them food and other items to make their lives tolerable. George, a gardener, has made a secret garden for Violet to visit. It is in the secret garden that she befriends a pair of hummingbirds, Pax and Peace.
The evil queen, who is really a nasty witch has plans to use feathers from the hummingbirds and a hair from Violet's head to concoct a magical potion that will make her beautiful. To that end, as Violet approaches her eleventh birthday, the Queen takes Violet to live in the castle and become her daughter and a princess. Violet's mother, Nuri, is banished from the castle grounds.
Young readers will be engaged as they read to find out whether Bogdana is able to make her beauty potion and if Violet and her family will ever be reunited. There are plenty of exciting turns of events as Violet makes new friends in the castle and Nuri tries to find her way back to her musical, minstrel family.
The characters all possess qualities and traits that are worth emulating (except for the evil Queen). Youngsters will be able to see a positive role model in Violet, as she always tries to make the best of her circumstances and she never loses hope in her family getting back together as free people. She loves beauty in the world around her and appreciates it without trying to possess what isn't hers.
The plot events move along quickly enough to hold the readers interest. Although, some parts are a little confusing as sometimes the motives for characters' actions are unclear. There are multiple goals the characters are trying to achieve: freedom, family, beauty, friendship, music... And while there is plenty of action and drama, there isn't any violence that I would be concerned about as a fifth grade teacher. I would be very comfortable having this book in my classroom library.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: March 29, 2016 by Henry Holt