Palace Beautiful

Written by Sarah deFord Williams
Review by Juliet Waldron

In 1985 the two Brooks girls, 13-year-old Sadie and her little sister Zuzu, move to Salt Lake City along with their father and very pregnant stepmother. For the first time in their lives they will live in an old house! While exploring the attic, they find a secret room under the eaves with the words “Palace Beautiful” painted on the inner sill. They also find objects the writer left behind, notably an antique family picture and a dusty journal dated 1918. Inside is the diary of a girl just Sadie’s age who is named Helen. Sadie and Zuzu and their odd, imaginative new neighbor, Bella, begin to read the journal. They are fascinated by this story told by a girl of 60 years ago, and deeply moved by the profound tragedy which overtakes her family. Difficult “adult” subjects—grief and loss—are handled by the author with a fine-tuned understanding of the emotional age of her readers. This ‘tween historical is an enjoyable page-turner with a host of compelling, believable characters, both past and present. I’ll certainly be passing Palace Beautiful on to my own 11-year-old granddaughter.