Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she’s confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it’s a comfortable life, and if it weren’t for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too. 
But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mystery—and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O’Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.

To start off, I found The Aviary a charming tale and enjoyed it a lot despite it taking so long to get immersed in. I loved the period setting and the story itself was quite interesting and it just became a story about mourning and closure along with familial reunion.

The herione of our story, Clara Dooley, is a smart twelve-year old girl who is forced to stay home because of an apparent heart condition. She wishes that she could go to school and have friends like a normal child, but alas, she’s stuck inside the home of Mrs. Glendoveer, the woman her mother is taking care of. Mrs. Glendoveer is a widow. Her husband used to be a profound magician and he was respected and loved all over the world as a great performer. Throughout the book there is a great emphasis on the birds (hence, The Aviary) and Mrs. Glendoveer loves them dearly. There’s a great mystery with the birds, however. It’s that they’ve lived far longer than they normally should. Cue the mysterious music for ambiance.

I have to say that even though I was really struggling to get into The Aviary, once I did I was sucked in good. Clara is a very clever girl and she finds out the truth about the birds and the reason why the Glendoveer mansion has been kept up for so long. The book has a lot about “actual magic” instead of performance magic and mixes in with the idea of ghosts (which were very popular around the time the book took place). It took about 100 pages, and it being such a short book it’s kind of a shame, but the second and third act of the novel are great fun. Clara’s relationship with her newfound friend Daphne is cute and also clever as well. Daphne acts as Clara’s eyes and ears to the outside world while Clara tries to find clues from inside. It’s actually a very interesting system and I loved how it worked out in the end for those two.

Without spoiling too much of the novel, the mystery around the Glendoveer children is the driving force of the novel and for Clara’s actions and the last few chapters almost become a race for the finish.

Final thoughts: This book was a charming tale of mystery and family, and I’m glad that it picked up near the end.

Rating: 4/5

Title: The Aviary
Author: Kathleen O’Dell
Published: September 13, 2011 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 337
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Buy it: Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Book Outlet | Book Depository

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