Cover image for The secret life of a boarding school brat
The secret life of a boarding school brat
Gordon, Amy, 1949-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, [2004]

Physical Description:
252 pages ; 22 cm
Unhappy to be sent to boarding school after her parents' divorce and her father's remarriage, seventh-grader Lydia chronicles her experiences, secret feelings, and changing outlook about her situation in the diary that her grandmother gave her before she died.
Reading Level:
660 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.5 8.0 77710.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.8 14 Quiz: 47825.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Lydia Rice absolutely cannot stand the Florence T. Pocket boarding school. Homesick for her mother, grieving for her grandmother, and feeling unwanted by all, Lydia prowls the halls during her sleepless nights and wreaks havoc during the day. But after she meets Howie, the night watchman and self-poroclaimed Silly Wizard, life begins to get a lot less boring. When Howie gives her the wizardly task of discovering a long-forgotten Pocket School secret, Lydia not only turns the school on its head, but uncovers some revelations about her own family. Set in New England in 1965, this beguiling middle grade novel tells a perceptive story about an unforgettable girl.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite the cheeky title, Gordon's (When JFK Was My Father) New England boarding school novel, set in 1965, follows fairly tame conventions. Discontented seventh-grader Lydia Rice narrates via a sometimes self-conscious diary format. Lydia hates her new school, resents her parents' divorce (and her father's remarriage) and mourns her grandmother's death. Roaming the halls at night, she meets Howie, the goodhearted, wise night watchman and maintenance worker, aka the Silly Wizard, who dares her to solve the puzzle within a school mural. Thanks to lively pacing and appealing if improbable alumnae characters, many readers will be caught up in the mystery and how Lydia connects the clues, though they will likely figure out who's who before Lydia. Gordon's execution, however, is uneven. Aside from a few references to popular music, the novel does not particularly evoke the period setting. Some of Lydia and her friends' antics seem a bit young for their age (e.g., using a very easy-to-crack secret code), while other pranks seem formulaic (raiding the mean teacher's classroom closet). Readers may also not hold the Silly Wizard stories Howie writes and gives to Lydia in the high literary esteem the characters do. Lydia's most painful problems, her sense of rejection by her parents, aren't convincingly explored or resolved, so that while Lydia makes strides and offers some clever observations, the mystery in the mural proves more intriguing than the heroine herself. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-7-Lydia Rice attends the Florence T. Pocket Boarding School. Her parents are divorced, her beloved grandmother has recently died, and she does not like her new school. She has difficulty making friends until she meets Howie, the maintenance man/night watchman, during one of her nocturnal wanderings through the school. He teaches her to be a silly wizard and sets up a task for her: to identify the characters in a mural painted in the hallway at the turn of the century. By unraveling this mystery, Lydia makes a series of discoveries about her family and herself. Throughout the novel, Howie gives her stories of magic and transformation that he has written. His advice to her is to be true to herself. This is a gentle story told in diary form of a young girl coming to terms with her struggles. Readers will identify with Lydia's difficulty adjusting to the changes and losses in her life, and, like her, will appreciate the healing power of a good friend.-Elizabeth Fernandez, Brunswick Middle School, Greenwich, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.