Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson

Nooks and CranniesInformation

Goodreads: Nooks & Crannies
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: June 2, 2015

Official Summary

Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn’t have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.

Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed— a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test.


Nooks & Crannies is the perfect read for those who need a bit of mystery in their lives.  The book is a fun take on the girl who likes mystery novels being swept up into a real, live mystery–in this case, one that could be deadly.  Balancing light-hearted humor and dark secrets, Nooks & Crannies takes mystery seriously.

In many ways, the book was not quite what I was expecting, which was refreshing.  Though parts of the mystery are easy to figure out, others are not, which will keep even adult readers entertained.  I was also surprised by the roles of the other children.  I was anticipating the children pooling their talents in the manner of The Mysterious Benedict Society to solve the mystery, but the book really is more in the mode of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Some of the children are simply there to be annoying.

However, there is a fantastic range of characters, from the varied children themselves to the hired help at the manor to the Countess and the parents.  There’s also Pemberley the mouse who, while not a magical talking companion, is quite endearing.  He’s also very brave and a lovely addition to the book for anyone who can’t help but fall in love with literary animals.

I will say I’m starting to become concerned about the number of abusive parents portrayed in middle grade–not because such parents don’t exist or because I think children need to be protected from the idea, but because in middle grade abuse is so often portrayed as humorous.  It’s as if characterizing the parents as really, really bad and making ridiculous demands of their child and stuffing them away in a corner of the attic somehow makes the situation comically absurd rather than disturbing.  While I don’t want to burden Nooks & Crannies with all the responsibilities for this, I do wish authors would do something more with child abuse.  A way out for the child that doesn’t involve a crazy adventure, serendipity, and a kindly stranger adopting them might be a start, as the trope usually goes.

Otherwise, however, Nooks & Crannies is a thoroughly engrossing tale.  I’ll stop short of calling it “charming” because it’s too caught up in details of murders and other grisly mysteries, and it’s not always shy of representing humans at their worst.  Both children and adults can be quite nasty in this book.  Yet the story is ultimately hopeful and has positive messages about what spunk, careful observance, and bravery can do for a girl.

4 stars Briana

15 thoughts on “Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson

  1. mez_blume says:

    I hadn’t come across this title nor the author. Thanks for introducing! And quite right–too many of us middle grade authors are chomping at the bit to create the next Mr. & Mrs. Wormwoods, but there’s surely room to explore the beauty of a healthy parent-child relationship as well!


    • Briana says:

      I just stumbled across it at the library, so both the book and author were new to me, too!

      Yes! I do think some of the funny ones can work, but I’d like to see a little in the way of variety! I have trouble thinking of middle grade books where the parents seem involved with their children.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Krysta says:

        Maybe contemporary does better with this than fantasy? Lisa Graff’s books tend to have parents around, for example. The children still are alone plenty because of course they go to school and hang out with their friends and don’t have their parents around to fix everything all the time. Or maybe the parents are around, but aren’t quite sure how to fix things.


  2. Ellen @ Quest Reviews says:

    It’s such a weird element to children’s literature — the author needs to get the guardian figure out of the way somehow to let the kids act as free agents, hence death (The Boxcar Children), abandonment (Wolves of Willoughby Chase), abuse (Harry Potter), and more. Then there are those books where the kids simply run away (My Side of the Mountain, Doll Bones). Then there are even combinations of all these things — the nasty events actually start stacking (Julie of the Wolves, A Series of Unfortunate Events). Okay, I’m having way too much fun picking out examples. But it’s so easy, like plucking low-hanging fruit.


    • Briana says:

      Yes, every once in awhile I want to do a list where the parents actually stick around, and then I have a tough time remembering such books because there aren’t that many. Interestingly, it almost seems easier in older literature, like Anne of Green Gables, because it wasn’t actually expected the parents would be watching the children all the time; Anne can just wander around with other children with no problem!

      BLISS is one, sort of. The parents go away and leave a babysitting aunt behind, but the parents actually call once in awhile to check in. I was sort of surprised.


    • Briana says:

      Actually, I think there may be a couple contemporary middle grades where the parents are kind of around, but fantasy is a harder sell because how can children go on literal adventures with their parents involved?


      • Krysta says:

        I’ve seen it done, though I can’t seem to remember all the titles…. I guess Gregor the Overlander has parents. N. D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboard series has guardians. Wilson’s Ashtown Burials series has some parents/guardians around. I like when the parents aren’t dead, though, because it requires some creativity on the part of the author to get the child off an an adventure, though sometimes they just have to kind of fall through a portal when alone. 😉


  3. Emily | RoseRead says:

    Great review! I love the bit about representing abusive parents in books for younger readers. I never really considered that trope before, but you are so right! It is so problematic to constantly make abusive parenting into something farcical or funny. Thanks for bringing that to attention.


  4. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    You make an excellent point about child abuse; that’s something I’ve been itching to discuss with a professional child psychologist. I’d love to learn more about how children process and respond to the abuse portrayed in their books, and how their response might change (for the better or worse?) if the portrayal is made more realistic.

    Unfortunately, I’ve had no luck hunting down a professional child psychologist to bother/interview on the topic. One day it’ll happen!

    Love the review, of course. 🙂


    • Briana says:

      That’s a really interesting question.

      My completely random guess is that reactions vary. (So profound, I know. :p) But I would think sometimes humor might be helpful and sometimes it might just be frustrating to feel like no one is taking the situation seriously?

      I might actually know someone who works in child psychology. I don’t talk to her about her job much and I’m not sure of her exact job description, but I should look into this!.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Krysta says:

        I was wondering last night if abused children could be given something like Matilda or Harry Potter to read, to see they are not alone, or if that would just make them feel worse. After all, abused children often end up with happily-ever-afters that are a bit unrealistic, like going to Hogwarts or finding a long-lost relative to care for them.


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