cover image The Secret Room

The Secret Room

Niki Yektai. Orchard Books (NY), $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05456-7

Set in New York City in 1903, this novel explores the sentiments of two high-spirited children whose family has moved from the country after receiving a large inheritance. Even though they live in a fancier house, Katharine and Freddie Outwater are unhappy about some of the changes in their lives. While Father contends with his law career and Mother shops for clothes and attends parties, the children are left under the all-too-critical eye of their humorless nurse, Miss Pritt. Whenever possible, they sneak off to their secret retreat, a hidden room they have furnished with some of their parents' belongings. When the servants begin to notice that the items are missing, the entire family experiences public humiliation. Readers may be more interested in details about turn-of-the-century society than the characters' conflicts. The two protagonists come off as a bit self-centered; and despite her liberal views on emancipation, Mrs. Outwater succumbs rather easily to a code of behavior required of a woman of her position. Ultimately, Yektai's message about the privileged class is ironic if not mixed. Some may be disappointed that the family does not experience a greater awakening concerning the superficiality of their new lifestyle. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)