Sarah Deford Williams' debut novel, Palace Beautiful, is such a gem of a book. Another title I read about on the Cybils list, I have now seen this title a few other places including some Mock Newbery sites. Before reading I had no idea what this story was going to be about. For some reason I had in my mind that it was a fantasy book - and we all know that that genre is just not one I am very excited about. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Set in 1985, thirteen year old Sadie and her sister Zuzu have just moved to Salt Lake City with their father and stepmother to be nearer to their grandmother. While they are sad to have left their home in Texas, they quickly make friends with their next door neighbor, a girl Sadie's age named Bella. Sadie, Bella, and Zuzu discover a small crawl space in their attic and find a journal kept by a girl who lived in their house in 1918 - during the influenza epidemic. Together the girls read Helen's journal which ends abruptly when her family acquires the sickness. Of course they want to know what happened to Helen and her family and do a bit of research to locate any of the White family who may have survived.
Subplots include Sadie's worry over her stepmother's pregnancy and approaching date of delivery. Sadie's own mother died giving birth to Zuzu, and Sadie is naturally worried for Sherrie's health. And Bella, the artistic, dreamy neighbor girl has a hard time conforming to her mother's strict rules and standards, making her feel unwanted much of the time.
This book is one I will order for my library and one I would love for my daughters to read. I was sad to see Palace Beautiful end.