Wendy McLeod MacKnight
Sargent Singer has mixed feelings as he boards a plane bound for New Brunswick to spend the entire summer with his father, the curator of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. While he can’t imagine spending all those weeks with his father, maybe they will forge a connection through their shared love of art. But his father is under a lot of pressure and is frequently preoccupied and distracted.
Things take an unexpected turn when Sargent makes an amazing discovery: the people in the paintings in the gallery are alive! He befriends Mona Dunn, a 13-year-old girl from one of the paintings. As their friendship grows, these two lonely young people try to help one another find solace in their respective life situations. But there are strange things afoot at the gallery and soon the two youngsters find themselves in the midst of a major art heist that could yield tragic results for the people in the paintings, as well as for Sargent’s father and the Beaverbrook.
This New Brunswick author brings middle-grade readers an action-packed tale with an intriguing premise. The narrative is told alternately from the points of view of Sargent and Mona, enabling readers to get a thorough glimpse into Mona’s world within the paintings: the social and political structure of their world, the relationships they have with each other and what it means to be a figure in a painting who sees what goes on in the outside world but can never actively participate in it.
McLeod MacKnight sensitively depicts Sargent’s troubled relationship with his father and his apprehension about making new friends at the art camp he attends. The mystery element of the story is also well-developed and well-paced in this compelling and meticulously-crafted tale of friendship, family and secrets.