Elise and her best friend Franklin are enjoying their last day of summer vacation playing “Knights,” a game in which they both are transformed into valiant subjects of the court, fighting evil with their wooden swords. Elise realizes that running while looking back and swinging her sword is not such a good idea as she goes tumbling down the side of the hill, badly scrapping her legs. These scrapes will set the tone for Elise’s first experience in sixth grade.
Elise’s assigned locker partner, Amanda, immediately deems her the “Bloody Queen of Scabs,” and school suddenly turns into a place where Elise dreads attending. On top of dealing with constant bullying from Amanda, Elise is having trouble coping with her new school work load and starts falling behind on assignments. Fearful of seeming like a “baby” in front of her peers, Elise also alienates her best friend, Franklin, because he likes playing imaginary games.
Elise decides that her life is a total mess, and she is not proud of her actions in school and towards Franklin, when mysterious keys start to turn up around the house and outside in the barn.
The second floor of her Uncle Hugh’s workshop has always been off-limits with mysteriously locked rooms. Elise takes a chance and decides to try the unexplained key in one of the locked doors. Astonishingly, the key opens the door and inside is a room full of pictures of her long-deceased mother with a message, “Know where you come from.” As Elise navigates the trials and tribulations of school, more keys start to turn up, and more secret rooms become uncovered, each one with a special message for Elise. What do all of these secret rooms mean? What are the messages trying to convey? And, who is the mysterious person leaving all of the keys? Filled with angst, hope, and redemption, Lafleur’s novel is one with which young readers will identify. Adult readers will also be able to enjoy its subtleties and nostalgic tone of childhood. Just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby.
One of the 2015 Sunshine State Readers for grades 3-5, Eight Keys should not be missed.