Author: Ellen Potter
Roo Fanshaw has always preferred her own company to the company of others–a character trait that was probably emphasized by her family’s frequent moves and her father’s steady stream of girlfriends and questionable dealings. So when her father’s murder leads to her living with her uncle (who is frequently absent) and couple ladies hired to help around the house–actually a re-purposed tuberculosis hospital on an island in the St. Lawrence river–Roo isn’t nearly as devastated as most twelve-year-old girls would be. Actually, she rather finds herself enjoying exploring the island and the unused portions of the house on her own. Of course, wandering around like that is bound to lead to trouble, especially when she becomes determined to find the source of the mysterious humming she hears in the corridor.
Ellen Potter has done something really fascinating with The Humming Room: she has taken the general skeleton of Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and has given it a uniquely different flesh and skin, if you will. The setting is quite different–contemporary America as opposed to Victorian England. The characters and the specific events are also completely unique. Still, the general flow of happenings is the same, and anyone who has read The Secret Garden will immediately see the connection and be expecting certain events and characters to pop up. I really think Potter did a good job of being true to the spirit of the original while creating something unique and interesting in its own right. The characters are vivid and easy to relate to. (I especially relate to Roo, being something of an antisocial person myself.) The plot is also close enough to the original to be recognizable, yet it fits with the characters, setting, and era. On the whole, I would say that The Humming Room is an enjoyable children’s book both as a re-envisioning of a classic and in its own right.