Middle School Monday: The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
It’s 1928, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?
Inspired by true events described in a fascinating author’s note, The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers today will love.
Fitzgerald has created a truly immersive reading experience in The Gallery. Main character and narrator Martha O’Doyle is entirely sympathetic from the moment we meet her – questioning her catholic school’s teachings about Eve and original sin. We follow along as she leaves school and goes to work with her mother at the Sewell house, home of newspaper magnate Mr. Sewell and his wife, Miss Rose, who is mentally unstable. It’s right before Herbert Hoover is elected president, and Mr. Sewell uses his newspaper to influence public opinion in favor of Hoover. He’s also a big investor in the stock market.
An organic series of events leads Martha to believe that Mr. Sewell is keeping Miss Rose hostage in her own house and causing her mental instability. When she figures out how he’s doing it, she counteracts his plans and helps Miss Rose regain her mental health, but can she help her escape Mr. Sewell?
This is an intricately told story full of information about art, history of the time period, and intriguing machinations. I felt fully immersed in the story the entire time I was reading it. I would highly recommend it to 4th through 8th graders, especially those who may have loved but outgrown the American Girl books.
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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