I've been meaning to re-read The Diamond in the Window, the first book from Jane Langton's Hall Family Chronicles, for a few months now. I decided that the 48 Hour Book Challenge was an excellent excuse to re-visit this old friend. The Diamond in the Window is the story of Eddy and Eleanor Hall, who live in a fantastic house in historic Concord, Massachusetts. I particularly enjoyed these books as a kid because I grew up in Lexington, right next door to Concord, and it was easy for me to picture the Hall's house and neighborhood. Langton's children's books also have just the right touch of magic, mixed in with real-life, to make a real-life kid feel like anything is possible.
Things are tough for Eddy and Eleanor. Their Uncle Freddy is perpetually confused, and their Aunt Lily is overworked, struggling to pay back taxes on their house so that they don't lose it. And then a wonderful thing happens. Eleanor and Eddy discover a hidden staircase that leads to a secret room at the top of their house. The room has toys and books, an elaborate castle built of block, and two small beds. They learn from Aunt Lily that the room belonged to their aunt and uncle, Ned and Nora, who disappeared when they were children. Aunt Lily's fiance, and Uncle Fred's friend, Prince Krishna, also disappeared.
Eddy and Eleanor promptly decide to search for the missing Ned, Nora, and Prince Krishna. They uncover a clue-filled poem, and start having fantastic shared dreams (or are they dreams?), in which they uncover secrets from the poem. These dreams are wonderful experiences, overlaid with menacing fright. But slowly, the determined children work through the clues, and the dreams, trying to find their missing aunt and uncle, and uncover a treasure that will save the family home.
The Diamond in the Window is filled with excellent adventures: kids turning into toys, and mice, and wandering inside of mazes. Some of the adventures hide larger lessons about loyalty and being true to who you are, but the lessons are rarely overt. The story is also filled with historical references about the Revolutionary War, and Walden and Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott. Again, not so overt -these things are part of the world that Eddy and Eleanor, and especially Uncle Freddy, live in.
I couldn't really say how well this story will hold up for kids who aren't from Lexington and Concord, and who don't fondly remember it from their childhood. But I suspect that that Jane Langton taps into universal themes of mystery, adventure, and fantasy fulfillment that will please anyone. I'm glad that I visited again.
Book: The Diamond in the Window
Author: Jane Langton
Original Publication Date: 1962
Age Range: 9 to 12
Time Spent: 2 hours
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.