Middle-Grade Mystery / Fantastic
by Wendy McLeod MacKnight
June 2018 – Greenwillow/HarperCollins US
Includes a gorgeous series of portraits
There are few rules at the Beaverbrook Gallery but those rules must be obeyed:
1) Mandatory attendance at monthly meetings.
2) No speaking to the Gallery Director yourself. Any comments, questions, or complaints must go through Max.
3) Remain in your paintings during the hours of operation.
And, most importantly —
4) Do not, under any circumstances, let visitors know you are alive.
Every painting and portrait you’ve ever viewed is hiding a secret: When you’re looking at them, they’re looking back. It’s a secret that almost-13-year-old artist, Sargent Singer discovers one summer. Having come to all the way to the small town of Fredricton, Canada, from New York City to spend time with the father he hasn’t really seen since his parents’ divorce, the last thing Sargent expects is to catch the portrait of a lovely girl sticking out her tongue at some obnoxious young boys.
Mona Dunn was born in 1902 and died in 1928, but her 1915 portrait by William Orpen preserves her 13-year-old self for all time. Literally. And now Mona is responsible for breaking the biggest rule at the Gallery.
When the Beaverbrook becomes a target for art theft, Mona and Sargent, along with the other art students and painted residents of the Gallery, must foil the robbers before Mona ends up hanging on a wall, all alone in some chalet in Switzerland, without the friends and family she loves.
Wendy McLeod MacKnight is the former deputy minister of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Education in New Brunswick, Canada and is the author of It’s a Mystery, Pig Face.
« The mystery plot will keep readers guessing until near the end, but they will find other parts of the story even more involving, from the ups and downs of Sargent’s relationship with the father he barely knows to the intricately envisioned, surprisingly contentious world of the artwork, where painted figures have secret lives, thinking, conversing, and leaping from one picture to the next. Readers will find themselves frequently referring to the full-color reproductions of the paintings mentioned. While Sargent and Mona are vividly portrayed, this chapter book’s most memorable element is also its most unusual: the imaginative conviction that art is alive. »—Booklist, STARRED
« MacKnight entices with art critique and technique. […]For anyone who’s wondered about the people inside the frames. »—Kirkus Reviews
« [T]his inventive fantasy gives a second life to its painted subjects[…]Readers will delight in the canvas world that exists on the other side of the frame[…]this middle grade read paints fantasy, humor, and mystery into a satisfying tale about the power of friendship. »—School Library Journal
« [T]his fantasy, supported by an inventive cast of characters, offers a compelling portrait of art and life. »—Publishers Weekly