August Augmented Fifths — 1/5 — The Keeper of the Trees by Beverley Brenna

The word spelled a-u-g-u-s-t has at least two meanings. The most obvious is the month we are currently in, the eighth month of the year. August. But “august” can also mean something particularly noteworthy, something esteemed.

In music, an augmented fifth is a type of chord that uses a note slightly higher than a normal fifth chord for the top note. It adds some extra excitement to the music, a sense that the music is going somewhere. An augmented fifth is not the sort of chord that one uses to finish a song, it’s a chord that leads to something else. It builds the listener’s anticipation.

For the five Fridays of this month of August, I’m going to introduce you to some middle grade novels that to me are particularly noteworthy, that have augmented my life and led me to growth and discovery. I hope they will, among other things, lead you to the library where the anticipation of these “august augmented fifths” can find resolution as you read the book for yourself.

So, let’s take a look at the first of five — 1/5 of the augmented fifths of the month:

Twelve-year-old Elizabeth does NOT want to be where life has placed her. If life had consulted her, she still would be living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Her mother would still be alive. She’d be in a familiar school. She’d be with her friends. She wouldn’t be living with Aunt Julia in chilly, damp London, England; her widowed father wouldn’t be at a university two hours away; she wouldn’t be attending a school where she very much feels like an outsider; and strange things wouldn’t be happening.

For strange things do happen as Elizabeth learns to accept life in London with Aunt Julia. A homeless woman in the park, who is always quoting poetry for some reason that Elizabeth cannot fathom, asks her if she is a Listener. She hears odd sounds under the ground, that she isn’t quite sure really are coming from the underground trains as her aunt says. A man seems to be following her, and there is something very odd about him, something that makes shivers run up her spine. And one day, Elizabeth sees a tiny horse galloping across the park and disappearing … into the ground. She knows, deep within herself, that somehow all these strange and disparate elements are connected. Deeply connected.

Beverley Brenna has woven an intricate modern fantasy in The Keeper of the Trees, melding reality and other-reality in a totally believable fashion. Themes of nature and of care for the environment thread through this book as they do through most of her writing. Her love of literature is evident in her skilful weaving of snippets of poetry into the text so that each quotation advances the story in some way. And through it all, we get a finely drawn picture of life in London as experienced by a twelve-year-old who finds it so different from home.

Every time I read this book — I am re-reading it now — I get something new out of it. This time, I’m finding myself more aware of Bev’s use of unique similes and metaphors as descriptors, more aware of her evocative language.

The book was written in 1999, and is not always easy to find, but I believe it’s worth looking for. This book is a Keeper.

Title:  The Keeper of the Trees

Author:  Beverley Brenna

Publisher:  Vancouver, B.C.: Ronsdale Press, 1999

Genre:  Middle grade fantasy

Audience Age:  9 to 12 years


12 thoughts on “August Augmented Fifths — 1/5 — The Keeper of the Trees by Beverley Brenna”

  1. Thank you for this book suggestion. I currently have a couple of MG story ideas in my mind. I’ll really need to get my hands on some great MG stories to familiarize myself with how best to write for the MG audience. Reading MG books is one of the steps I’m going to enjoy as I prepare for this 🙂

    1. Definitely reading MG is the way to prepare yourself for writing MG. Five of my favorites will be featured in this mini-series — hope you’ll find some new favorites among them!

  2. Your description of this book compels me. I hope our library has it. This seems like it’s going to be a very enjoyable summer read.

  3. I will look for this book, which sounds delightful. It puts me in mind of Elizabeth Goudge’s _The Little White Horse_ (and other novels, like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s _The Little Princess_ and _The Secret Garden_ where the heroine is either motherless or an orphan and sent to England or to live with a reclusive relation). Just discovered your blog and know I’m going to enjoy it. You might be interesting in a couple of my blog posts on childhood reading:
    “I once was lost (and wish I still were)”
    Best, JR

    1. Josna — welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you’ve discovered it. I will definitely check out your posts, and hope you enjoy The Keeper of the Trees.



      1. Beth, I’ve been enjoying reading back through your blog and am amazed by your energy and the age range of your writing, from picture books to chapter books and middle grades in-between. Reading aloud is also something I’ve always enjoyed, and I wanted to share another story with you on that subject: “Curb Your Enthusiasm” . I’ll let you know when I’ve gotten hold of and read The Keeper of the Trees. Thank you and best wishes, Josna

        1. Thanks, Josna! I’ve been enjoying reading back through your blog as well, and will definitely check out “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” All the best to you! Beth.

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