Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone. He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books. His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.
A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.
House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction. There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).
Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book. I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie. It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention. I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved. The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates. There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.
Although I loved the story and the way the authors kept the action moving along, I found the children quite stereotypical and a bit flat. Within the first 10 pages you’ve had a detailed description of what the three children look like and how old they are, which just seemed a little bit forced to me. I guess it’s probably a movie thing and they’re trying to give us a picture of the characters, but you don’t need to know everything about a character within the first few minutes.
The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series. I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.