Virginia Hamilton Julia G. Russell - Essay

Julia G. Russell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The House of Dies Drear is an] unusual, highly intriguing story skillfully incorporating Civil War history. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Small, his father (a Civil War historian), his mother and brothers arrive at their new home in a small Ohio town…. Thomas is both fascinated and frightened by the legends of escaped slaves, the eccentric old caretaker Pluto; the uncharted passageways of the house, unnerving noises, vandalism in-tended to frighten the Smalls away, forbidding neighbors with threatening sons, and an unpredictable, mysterious little girl. The ending is an anticlimax in view of the preceding tension, but it does serve to tie up loose ends in revealing the treasure of Dies Drear and the mystery surrounding old Pluto…. [The deft lack of emphasis on the family's race] puts the story's interest where it belongs—on the mystery. The fact that the main characters are Negro neither adds to nor detracts from the suspense, but does provide an unobtrusive and convincing point of view for Thomas's discussion of the community with his father. This is a superior mystery with well-sustained suspense and an unself-conscious story of a boy who gains a new appreciation of his heritage. (pp. 53-4)

Julia G. Russell, in her review of "The House of Dies Drear," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1968 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1968), Vol. 15, No. 4, December, 1968, pp. 53-4.