All in a Garden Green

172 pages
June 24, 2020

Thirteen-year-old Erica Pickins does not want to play the piano—and she definitely does not want to go to England. But her father must take family and students for a fall semester abroad, and her mother insists she still practice, every day. In England, their new home becomes Hengrave Hall, a sixteenth-century manor house presided over […]

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Thirteen-year-old Erica Pickins does not want to play the piano—and she definitely does not want to go to England. But her father must take family and students for a fall semester abroad, and her mother insists she still practice, every day.

In England, their new home becomes Hengrave Hall, a sixteenth-century manor house presided over by a group of nuns. While exploring with her new friend Pedro, Erica walks through a chamber door…into the Year of Our Lord 1578. There she is startled to find a music master in doublet and hose impatiently waiting for her. He mistakes her for Margaret, the elder daughter of the house, who is late for a lesson on the virginal—a forerunner of the piano.

It seems that in a matter of days Queen Elizabeth will arrive on a formal visit, and the girl is to play for her as part of the planned entertainments.

Erica has no choice but to play along and pretend that she is Margaret. With a little help from her brainy friend Pedro, and after making a few whopping social blunders in welcoming the Queen of England, Erica manages to pull off her final performance—but not before the real Margaret reappears at exactly the wrong moment….

One of the pleasures of the young is dress-up, imagined time-travel, and participation in events more significant than life has afforded them thus far. All of these elements abound in All in a Garden Green. Based on a real castle-like estate house in England and a historical visit by Queen Elizabeth I, the novel’s protagonists find themselves in unasked-for adventures that both define and stretch them. And readers will greatly enjoy the ride.

Daniel Taylor, author of Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees

Fling together a girl about to leave childhood behind, an ancient house filled with chapels and towers and chambers and hidden staircases, lutes and virginals, Queen Elizabeth I, a wise and knowing mentor, and two huge St. Bernards—and then mix them with the slipperiness of time, and you have this rollicking novel that speeds its way to its nick-of-time ending. This is a playful book, spanning four centuries of a changing language, and undergirded by the lovely certainty that what lies ahead will always be better.

Gary Schmidt, Professor of English, Calvin University, and author of Okay for Now

All in a Garden Green is a journey both real and fantastic. During her family’s stay at Hengrave Hall, Erica discovers a portal to England’s late sixteenth century. Abruptly, history explodes into fascinating and well-researched detail—altered language, antiquated musical instruments, secret rooms and hidden staircases, even a visit by Queen Elizabeth I. Erica’s piano lessons were never like this! The story gives young readers a fresh take on resonances between past and present. Highly recommended.

Ellen Chavez Kelley, author and poet

In an old English manor house a young girl enters into history in a way that entices readers to suspend disbelief and take delight in sharing her journey across time. Skillfully drawing upon his own semester with students in England and upon records of a royal visit to Hengrave Hall, Paul Willis has woven a tale that deserves to be read aloud and enjoyed by adults and children old enough to wonder about time past. Ancient customs, young romance, a courtyard, a moat, a mysterious nun, and two St. Bernards are only a few of the features that give this story its singular charm.

Marilyn McEntyre, author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies