The Aviary

The AviaryReview written by MG Wells.

The Aviary is a mystery set in Maine during the late 1800’s and similar to the classical style of The Secret Garden. The protagonist, twelve-year-old Clara, lives a lonely life in a creepy, dilapidated mansion, with Ruby (the cook), her mother, Harriet (the housekeeper) and the elderly owner, Mrs. Glendoveer.

Clara has no friends her own age and is confined by her mother to the estate due to a heart condition. Clara feels both anxious and curious about the noisy birds in the ornate aviary behind the house.  After Mrs. Glendoveer dies, she leaves the estate to Clara’s mother and Ruby. Clara soon discovers Mrs. Glendoveer’s children were kidnapped and drowned, and the deceased father (a famous magician) was accused of the murders.

One day, Clara ventures outside to the aviary and hears one of the birds call out the name Elliot. This piques her interest, and she decides to find out the mystery behind these strange birds. Clara makes friends with Daphne, who waves to Clara as she gazes out an upstairs window. I enjoyed the friendship and characters of these girls. Compelled to uncover the truth behind the horrible deaths of the Glendoveer children, the girls set out on an intriguing, mysterious adventure.  During their journey, they encounter ghosts and the secret behind Clara’s own family.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Death & Loss

This book certainly contains much about death and loss. The tragic deaths of the Glendoveer children may be a bit much for some readers. I did not find it extremely graphic and believe kids need to understand the shocking way some people die.

Family Secrets

Clara’s mother does not understand why her mother keeps her isolated from her peers and why she refuses to share anything about her own father.  Clara also is perplexed why Mrs. Glendoveer is so sad all the time as well as the truth of what really happened to her children and Mr. Glendoveer.


Precocious, patient readers ages 10 and up may like this absorbing mystery, especially those who like books written in a gothic, classical style. Although I enjoyed it, I believe some kids may find the book too long and the language difficult to grasp. I don’t believe it would make an engaging read-aloud. Regardless, The Aviary was certainly a unique book. Due to the popularity of the paranormal and dystopian genres, I feel more adults will appreciate this unique tale. I do recommend giving this gem of a book a chance. It certainly engaged my imagination and is well-written.

The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell
Published in 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Read hard copy

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