Almost a score ago when I have first encountered this book and yet its story still holds a special part inside me, prompting a certain crave now to read the book again, even though at my present age, the delight in this experience had probably faded to a great extent. This book is special in a class of its own in that it marks the shift in my reading trek from the cozy picture books to a more complex and wordy short novel (it has chapters). Thanks to The Secret House by Carol Beach York for making the shift experience a gratifying one.
Early in primary school, we used to have library hour wherein we get to choose up to 4 books for weekend mind consumption. In one of those instances, I decided that I’ve outgrown the familiar characters and comfortable hard covers of the Puddle Lane series I usually borrowed. Instead, I started to look out for books from the shelves where a few students were gathering. I pulled out a book in scrutiny: a black cat eyeing two scared girls in uniforms; behind them an incongruous wooden fence and a leafless tree; farther behind the fence was a rundown house that’s apparently haunted. Quite interesting, and the word “secret” added to the air of curiosity. Usually, it’s always “The Haunted House” and its commonness almost always kills the interest. I looked at the back cover, it says “Miss Plum’s scary stories soon start to seem very real to the girls at the Good Day Orphanage, and soon Phoebe and Tatty begin to believe that the house down the street really is haunted.” By then, I have decided that this is worth a try even as I browse the pages. It had chapters, the first novel I’d ever try; nevertheless, gauging the text with a few illustrations thrown occasionally throughout the pages, it couldn’t have been very lengthy for me. Thus, the book was chosen singly, to give myself the whole weekend to concentrate on it.
I can hardly remember the event I have been reading the book, but I know I loved it. It’s very easy to be the adventurous and curious Phoebe who was the only girl to notice the house down the street and share the secret with her friend Tatty. She saw the black cat in Miss Plum’s story, the wizard’s canary, the red head behind the chair in the wizard’s parlor who was presumed to be the wizard’s first victim, and everyday, as Miss Plum’s story unfolds, Phoebe discovers new evidences.
In the end, the wizard got bored with the potions he had been trying out and decided to build a space ship to rule other wizards in the outer space. But he found none and got lost in space forever. Phoebe and Tatty found clues of something built in the backyard the next day, but nothing concrete could verify their belief that the house was indeed the one on Ms. Plum’s story.
Soon afterwards, a pleasant family with a baby moved in. Both girls knew that asking Miss Plum would confirm their belief but they were afraid that the question would be suspicious. And then one night, a girl at the Orphanage asked this hanging question to which Miss Plum replied, “By and by, a nice family moved in. They have a baby…” and both girls, including the reader are left to contemplate whether the wizard really did live in the Secret House.