By Suzanne LaFleur
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Copyright © 2011
Elise and Franklin like to play out in Uncle Hugh’s workshop in the barn. The Workshop is downstairs. The second floor is off limits and it has eight doors; all of them locked. One day just after the start of the new school year Elise notices a key hanging in the barn with her name on it.
Elise is moving from elementary school up to middle school and she is finding the adjustment to be difficult. She is getting more homework, less teacher support, and more attention for all the wrong reasons. Much of the unwanted attention is coming from her locker partner, Amanda, who is a generally unhappy girl that seems to enjoy yelling, name calling, and lunch squashing.
Elise feels that part of her problems are brought on by her childhood friend Franklin whose innocent nature gets him and her pegged as babies, and therefore easy targets, by Amanda and her friends. In addition, a new baby moves into her house, and Elise is having trouble getting used to not being the center of her Aunt and Uncles attention.
How is Elise going to deal with all of these changes in her life? After reading a letter written by her dad before he died she begins to think that answer lies behind those eight locked doors in the barn.
Suzanne LaFleur has written about middle school life, as well as troubles with friends and identity so realistically that it will be easy for many youths to relate to it. In addition the puzzle that is left behind by Elise’s father for her to discover adds a touch of mystery and surprise that heightens the anticipation for each chapter. Reality fiction at its best, this coming of age story is accessible to children (9 and up) and yet has emotional and moral impact that even adults can appreciate.