Title: Mystery at Deer HillMystery at Deer Hill
Author: Virginia Frances Voight
Illustrator: Ben Einhorn
Pages: 220
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

A little paperback mystery from the same author as Patriots’ Gold.

The Story.

Every summer, April and her family spend their holiday on the Connecticut beaches at Long Island Sound. April has already begun shopping for her summer outfits on the beach when she receives an invitation from her Aunt Ellen to go spend summer vacation with her in the forests of Maine! Of course, April would much rather go to the beach, and she is certain that her parents will agree that it is far too much to expect her to travel all by herself to such a faraway spot as Maine. But to her amazement – and disappointment – they express their approval of Aunt Ellen’s plan!

Now April’s nice sunny summer must be exchanged for a dark leafy one – and after April has bought her beach clothes and everything! But as April begins to adjust to life in the forest and makes friends with Kent and Sally Oliver she realizes that, though different, her summer vacation may be just as fun after all!

Discussion.

I didn’t know what to think of this story as I began it. Would the characters be loveable? Super annoying? Adorable, amazing, astonishing, or antagonistic?

As it turned out, the characters were very loveable indeed – in the beginning. April is a sweet girl who prefers the civility of suburban life to the dirt and danger of country living, but she quickly adjusts to her new surrounds and even begins to revel in the freedom and relaxation of time spent outdoors. She and Sally paddle around on the lake, and the two of them fix up a broken down cabin in the woods. April’s adaptation forms the first theme of the book.

The second theme of the book was poaching. I was fine with this – April and Sally are properly upset by the notion that deer are being slaughtered against the law and try to apprehend the poachers. My irritation began when their “You shouldn’t kill deer that are protected by law” attitude turned into “If you ever hunt deer or anything else recreationally, then you are a MONSTER” rallying cry. Along the way April rescues a baby deer who was left to die after his mother was killed, etc., serving to reinforce the emotional nature of her new stance.

Now, April is much less aggressive about her animal love than Mandy of Animal Ark fame. And on the whole, she’s a much better developed character. But the second half of the book almost felt like an older, more respectable version of an Animal Ark story.

I appreciated that April and the other young people in the story conducted themselves like adults rather than half-witted children. On one occasion April and Sally trespass on another person’s property, but other than this they don’t really do anything stupid.

A bit of a romance develops between April and Kent – they go on a double date to the circus with Sally and Chuck (after receiving permission from Aunt Ellen), and dash about the forest on aforementioned anti-poaching missions. Nothing else romantic really happens until Chapter 13 in which Kent informs April that he “knew [she] was [his] girl” from the first time he saw her. They agree that they are both young now, but that in a few years time they will be grown up and have a future together. At her request, he reiterates this sentiment in Chapter 14 and kisses her on the cheek.

Mild euphemisms ‘gosh’ and ‘golly’ are each used.

Conclusion. A sweetish story that began far better than it ended.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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