#213 – The Secret Room by Antonia Michaelis translated by Mollie Hosmer-Dillard

5 Stars

The Secret Roomlogo_123377_web (1)

Antonia Michaelis

Brigit Brandt

Sky Pony Press

195 Pages     Ages: 8 to 12


Inside Jacket: Achim is eleven years old when he moves from the orphanage to the house by the sea with Paul and Ines. Everything is strange and new. But one day Achim discovers an unusual door that leads to a secret room belonging to another world. And on a bed in the room sits a boy who is waiting to take Achim into the realm of the powerful Nameless One.

Achim learns that the boy, Arnim is the long-dead son of Achim’s new parents. When he died at the age of four, Arnim was suppose to have become a bird and traveled to the land of the dead, which can be seen through the window of the secret room. But the Nameless One has locked Arnim inside the room. Achim, however, finds that he can turn into a bird, slip through the window, and enter this strange world. Thus begins a journey in which Achim must fight the Nameless One and free Arnim’s spirit, so he can leave his parent’s and the family can finally stop grieving. But will Achim be able to fight the Nameless One while also keeping his own secrets from his new family?


Achim has lived in an orphanage for as long as he can remember which is since his parents died. Paul and Ines lost their son seven years earlier. Now they are at the orphanage to meet Achim.  .Achim moves in with the couple and on his first overnight Achim finds a room with a different door than all the rest. This curved door has a shiny silver doorknob, not a red plastic one like all the other doors in the house. He pushes it down and enters. Achim steps into a circular room, with bare furnishings, five windows, paintings on the wall, and blue curtains—all of which have importance.

The room is chilly—cold as ice—and so is the young boy Achim meets in this secret room. The boy is Arnim, Paul and Ines long-dead son, locked in a room of longing. Arnim longs for freedom and the ability to join the other birds. He longs for his parents to let go and stop grieving. But Arnim cannot simply walk out of the room; he needs Achim to help him. Achim agrees and soon he is on the journey of his life—and possibly his death.

The Secret Room is the translation of The Adoption Room, a German middle grade novel. This story hooked me from the blurb. It is the story of what becomes of us after we die and the struggle of one young boy trying to crossover to that new life. Becoming birds and flying to the “Land-of-the-Dead” is actually a beautiful possibility. The author has presented a world that places the dead into a wondrous world of tremendous freedom.

Then she adds The Nameless One, a repulsively powerful eagle/lion who is taking power from the longing of those dead he captures, and the sadness of those left behind. He uses this to build a never-ending palace made of white stones (longing), and black stones (sadness). Without these two things, he cannot continue to build. The beautiful post-life the author built is not perfect, just like life on this side of the divide.  And just like life, Arnim needs help to overcome his imprisonment.

Achim is beautiful as a bird. He has white feathers with violet speckles. The way the author has Achim going to this other world is imaginative and logical. The way he returns is simple. When Paul or Ines needs Achim, he returns to the secret room. Figuring out how to set Arnim free and then accomplishing the task will set Achim free in a way he, nor you, the reader, will see coming. And it is as wonderful a surprise as it is heartbreaking.

Wow! This is one power story that advanced readers will thoroughly enjoy. For those parents that pre-read their children’s books, I can say with confidence that the most intense fight scene will not bring on nightmares or difficulty sleeping. For those parents who generally do not pre-read books their kids read—read this one and enjoy. For kids who need to write a book report and are looking for that one-of-a-kind book to impress their teacher, The Secret Room will impress.

While written for the middle grades, The Secret Room is a story kids of all ages will enjoy. Some, like me, may find themselves reading it twice.


The Secret Room

Author: Antonia Michaelis    website
Translator: Mollie Hosmer-Dillard    website
Illustrator: Brigit Brandt    website
Publisher: Sky Pony Press    website 
 ..... Imprint of: Skyhorse Publishing    website  
195 Pages     Ages: 8 to 12

Copyright ©2012 by Antonia Michaelis and Skyhorse Publishing Inc., used with permission

Copyright ©2012 by Brigit Brandt and Skyhorse Publishing, used with permission

11 thoughts on “#213 – The Secret Room by Antonia Michaelis translated by Mollie Hosmer-Dillard

    • This is one time I wanted a different theme. Those illustrations would have popped out if the background was white and not light-orange. They looked so cool on white paper. The Secret Room is one I know you would like, my often existential little friend. 😉


  1. Pingback: Antonia Prebble – Wikipedia, – PHOTOS IMAGES BIOGRAPHY | Netflowers – HOME

    • Bette, thank you. I am humbled. I certainly will accept your award.

      Is there a speech I need to give, because I am terrible at speaking. When I speak, people see me. When I write, or review, or reply to all the wonderful comments on this site or others no one sees me. Nada. But a speech. Gee, I don’t think I can . . . it’s getting kind of late . . . um, uh, you’ve got me scared. No review tomorrow–I’m going to bed and covering my head. You can’t see me!

      Seriously, I offer a heart-felt “Thank you.”


  2. Wow, this does sound like a powerful book about the afterlife, and an excellent way to deal with it. The theory about turning into a bird after this life feels very real. I had a dear friend pass away years ago, and I was suddenly visited by a very friendly Bluebird every day for many months. One day the Bluebird brought another Bluebird with him, and I haven’t seen them since. And I knew my friend was telling me he had to carry on, in a different realm.


    • Wow. That is so cool.

      Amazing, isn’t it, how much a fantasy story can be so real. I am so sorry about your friend. I understand grief. While reading about the birds flying south together, to this special land, I thought of my mom. It is a powerful story. I am so glad you shared your story. Thank you. Seriously, thank you!


    • Yes, a secret room. A very chilly secret room. You don’t look like the type of dog outfitted for cold weather. My advice is this. Have Genevieve wrap you in your favorite blanket, curl up in it, in her lap, and have Genevieve read you the book.

      Soon you might learn to appreciate birds. Oh, sorry. I was thinking of a cat, but you’re a dog, so never mind. I’m sure you already appreciate birds as something other than food.


  3. This sounds like the kind of story that’ll stay with the readers for a long while. I haven’t come across any MG novel on the topic of life-after-death, and how a child handles it. I have a couple of students who would be very interested in this (me, included). Thanks for sharing!


    • Yes, I think your students would like The Secret Room, but please understand this is not a novel that deals with how a child handles death. This is a fantasy about a child stuck in limbo because of a mean monster-like being using the sadness death causes to build his palace. It could help a child deal with death, but it is not written as such.


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