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The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey
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The Valley of Secrets (2003)

by Charmian Hussey

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Orphaned Stephen inherits a vast estate from a previously unknown great-uncle, and he finds it is more than he bargained for when his possessions start to disappear, gates unlock and lock by themselves, and glowing eyes appear at his window. A cozy read, "Valley" touches upon the true nature of family, adopted or otherwise, and recovery from loss. A good read for older grade schoolers or tweens, especially if experienced as read by Charles Keating, via audiobook. Very concerned with conservation and indigenous peoples, although you wouldn't know it from the imaginary (and one imagines, symbolic) species toddling through Lansbury Hall.
  Sarahfine | May 27, 2011 |
This book was great. It's about an orphan who goes and trys to meet a relative, but only finds an empty house. Then these bugs start showing up and the house starts to feel really creepy. This was a nice light summer read. ( )
  midnighttwilight101 | Mar 13, 2009 |
Stephen Lansbury, an English orphan who has never known his relatives, receives an amazing inheritance from his great-uncle. Now he owns an estate called Lansbury Hall in Cornwall. He must meet the conditions of the will in order to inherit the property: leave the grounds and house as they are, never invite anyone to visit, and never share the results of his Great-Uncle Theodore's research. Great. ( )
  DF1A_ChristieR | Mar 6, 2009 |
I actually "read" this as an audio book while we were traveling.

The voice was perfect.

The book has many wonderful descriptions. So you really got a feel for that the main character was feeling/seeing and sensing at the time.

A great children's novel and once I started I couldn't put it down. The book is a tad predictable, however not in a bad way.

I would highly reccomend. :) ( )
  JLShunk | Sep 12, 2007 |
The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey - I wasn't sure about this one because the blurb on the back didn't say much about the story other than that it involved an orphaned boy who suddenly finds out that he's the only beneficiary in a never-before-seen great-uncle's will. But it takes place in Cornwall, which is, as any folklore lover knows, one of the most mysterious places on earth. We first meet Stephen Lansbury as he's just finished a course in botany and is fretting over whether to return to the children's home where he grew up or set off on his own. An elegant letter from Postlethwaite and Postlethwaite arrives, which brings Stephen to an odd interview with an ancient lawyer nestled comfortably in an office overrun by a jungle of plants. Bertie Postlethwaite informs Stephen that his great-uncle Theodore Lansbury has left him an estate in Cornwall, and Stephen should be getting on there right away to "take care of things."

With a train ticket and 100 pounds from Mr. Postlethwaite in his pocket, Stephen heads to the wilds of Cornwall. There he finds gates that mysteriously open, overgrown grounds, and an empty but spotless manor house. As he explores, Stephen begins to notice things. Like the strange "woomp, woomp" calls in the forest, the fact that the house has no electricity, that some of the rooms have thick layers of dust all over everything while others are spotless, the odd hammocks hung in the library and in a room upstairs, and the creepy feeling that he's being watched. Eventually, Stephen finds his great-uncle's journals and becomes privy to a grand adventure had by his uncle and his friend B. As the days and weeks pass, Stephen comes to realize that his uncle brought part of his adventure home with him, a revelation that solidifies when Stephen finds an injured animal of a type he's never seen before. He nurses the animal back to health, and is eventually led by the animal to find the greatest secret of all.

I confess that I am a sucker for stories that involve mysterious houses, unexpected inheritances and great secrets, so this book captivated me immediately. As I read, I felt like I was gently being led down a path and at the end I would find a fabulous gift. And that's just what I found at the end of this story. The events unfolded at exactly the right pace, and the characters were all wonderfully drawn. The only thing I didn't appreciate was the author's occasional tendency to preach about the destruction of the rainforest. Although the topic was certainly pertinent to the story, the facts were presented awkwardly and didn't really fit into the narration. All in all, though, this was a lovely, gentle story...give it a try. ( )
  PatriciaUttaro | Oct 5, 2006 |
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Book description
An ambitious blend of fantasy, mystery, and ecological adventure. Stephen Lansbury, raised in orphanages in London, is informed by an ancient lawyer, Albert Postlethwaite (who could have marched straight out of Dickens), that he has inherited his great-uncle Theodore's country house. As the teen explores his new home, he feels that he is being watched. Discovering his great-uncle's journals leads to some answers. Theo and his friend Bertie Postlethwaite explored the Amazon jungle for two years beginning in 1911. In a story-within-a-story, Stephen reads of their friendship with the Amazon Indians, who are being destroyed along with their lands by rubber barons and missionaries who bring disease. They bring home with them a young Amazon Indian, as well as various plants and fantastic creatures. Stephen soon meets Murra-yari and the Bugwomps. Murra-yari teaches Stephen to be self-sufficient. When he dies of malaria, Stephen feels all alone - a feeling that is assuaged at the very end of the novel by the arrival of a teenaged grandchild of Bertie's. Much is crammed into this lengthy novel, from long descriptions of the flora and fauna of both the Amazon and Cornwall to environmental messages and information on Victorian furniture and clothing. While Hussey touches on several fundamental truths and important messages, she verges on the didactic at times. The journals in particular have a preachy tone, with the Amazon Indians portrayed as superior noble savages. The novel itself has an old-fashioned feel, but sophisticated readers who persevere will find this multi-layered work intriguing.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0689878621, Hardcover)

The tradition of the cozy English children’s mystery, so sweetly portrayed in classics like Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce and Mandy by Julie Andrews, has been revived in Charmian Hussey’s exquisitely wrought The Valley of Secrets. Stephen Lansbury never knew his parents. So the orphan is stunned to receive a letter informing him he has inherited a large estate in the English countryside from his long lost great-uncle Theodore. Upon his arrival to Lansbury Hall, two things immediately strike Stephen: the exotic plant life that seems to bloom everywhere, and the meticulous upkeep of the old manor. When Stephen finds the water-stained journals of his uncle’s youthful travels up the Amazon River, the unusual greenery suddenly makes sense. But who (or what!) is maintaining the tidy kitchen garden and replenishing his woodbox? As Stephen pores over his uncle’s journals, his curiosity and apprehension grow. Are plants the only thing Uncle Theodore brought back from the rain forest all those years ago?

Charmian Hussey has given the stale orphan premise a clever 21st century twist by inserting loads of facts and figures about the devastating deforestation of the Amazon into her old-fashioned tale. There is even a list of mentioned flora and fauna included for aspiring young naturalists, who will no doubt be charmed by Stephen’s surprising "discovery" of a whole new species. For more mystery melded with Amazon lore, follow up The Valley of Secrets with Eva Ibbotson’s equally wonderful Journey to the River Sea. --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:04 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When strange events occur in his newly inherited manor house in Cornwall, England, Stephen, a teenager who was abandoned at birth, investigates the mystery and his family history using clues found in a travel journal kept by his great uncle Theo during his trip to the Amazon River region.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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