Seven Stories Up, by Laurel Snyder | Book Review
Hardcover: 240 pages
Age Range: 8-12
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
What to Expect: Friendship, Family, Magic, History, Suspense, Adventure
In Seven Stories Up, Laurel Snyder combines humor and friendship to spin a rich story of adventure, sprinkled with Snyder’s signature magic and mystery. The creative plot lulls readers to reflect on their own family relationships and imagine how intriguing it would be to meet the adults in their life as children. Kids often wonder aloud if adults were ever kids, Seven Stories Up is a touching coming of age story about a girl who gets to know her grandmother under truly unique circumstances.
It’s 1987 and 12 year old Annie and her mother are traveling to Baltimore to visit her grandmother Mary, who is ill and on the verge of death. When they arrive at her grandmother’s home, Annie discovers that Mary, whom she has never met, lives in and grew up in an old hotel, Hotel Calvert. Annie finally meets her grandmother, who presents herself as an angry and bitter woman. It quickly becomes clear that Annie’s mother and her grandmother have a complicated and tumultuous relationship. At the end of the long day, Annie puts on a sleep mask she finds by the bed and is happy to go to sleep.
The next morning, Annie wakes up to find her surroundings familiar but different at the same time. When a girl named Molly appears in her room, Annie realizes that she is no longer where she thought she was and has somehow woken up at the Hotel Calvert in 1937. Furthermore, Annie deduces that Molly, who is very excited to have a companion, is her grandmother as a child. Molly suffers from asthma and her fearful and neglectful father has confined her to the top floor of the hotel (this is one of the several parallels and references to The Secret Garden.)
Annie and Molly bond instantly and have a series of adventures that are eye opening and rejuvenating for both. Molly discovers the breadth of her abilities and demonstrates her resolve. Though the friends develop a special relationship, Annie desperately wishes to return to the present day and be with her mom. As Annie tries to navigate her way back to the present and as Molly learns to stand up to her father, there is a considerable amount of suspense, which well balances the amicable nature of the rest of the story. In the end, Molly is able to overcome her life of solitude and loneliness and Annie realizes that her grandmother’s legacy will not be that of an angry and bitter woman but that of a kind and adventurous spirit.
Seven Stories Up is a tender tale of a friendship and family set in 1937, a period in history ripe with tension and desperation, with poverty and segregation prevalent themes in society. Though surrounded by these dark themes, Snyder is able to tell a magical story of hope and triumph in adversity that will keep young readers engaged and entertained.
Add this book to your collection: Seven Stories Up
Readers may also enjoy these selections written by Laurel Snyder:
Bigger than a Breadbox (Random House Children’s Books, September 2012)
Penny Dreadful (Random House Children’s Books, September 2010)
Any Which Wall (Random House Children’s Books, May 2010)
About the Author
Laurel Snyder is the author of five novels for children, “Bigger than a Bread Box,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Any Which Wall,” “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess,” and “Seven Stories Up.” She has also written six picture books, “Inside the Slidy Diner,” Good night, laila tov,” “Nosh, Schlep, Schluff,” “The Longest Night,” “Camp Wonderful Wild,” and “Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.”
In addition to her books for children, Laurel has written two books of poems, “Daphne & Jim: a choose-your-own-adventure biography in verse” (Burnside Review Press, 2005) and “The Myth of the Simple Machines” (No Tell Books, 2007). She also edited an anthology of nonfiction, “Half/Life: Jew-ish tales from Interfaith Homes” (Soft Skull Press, 2006) A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Michener-Engle Fellow, Laurel has published work in the Utne Reader, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Revealer, Salon, The Iowa Review, American Letters and Commentary, and elsewhere. She is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, but most of all, she is a mom. Visit: http://laurelsnyder.com