The Secret of Dinswood

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Pub Date 26 Feb 2019 | Archive Date 19 Feb 2019

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Desperate to get away from a home where she no longer feels wanted, twelve-year-old Emma Higsby is elated when she wins a scholarship to the prestigious Dinswood Academy boarding school.

Emma quickly falls in love with the renovated castle nestled in the heart of the mountains. But when rumors surface that her new school is having financial problems and may have to close, she begins to search for a way to save her new home.

When she discovers a riddle of buried treasure left by the eccentric school’s founder, Lord Dinswood, she and her friends must use their courage and intelligence to solve each clue.

But someone else is searching for the treasure as well. Emma and her friends will have to race against time and discover the secret of Dinswood first!

Desperate to get away from a home where she no longer feels wanted, twelve-year-old Emma Higsby is elated when she wins a scholarship to the prestigious Dinswood Academy boarding school.


A Note From the Publisher

Also available in trade softcover (ISBN: 978-1-947727-55-7) and Ebook (ISBN: 978-1-948540-36-0). Ebook also available through Overdrive. • This coming-of-age mystery series blends the mystery and intrigue of Nancy Drew, the comradery and lasting friendships in Harry Potter, and the fun and adventure in the cult classic movie The Goonies into a fresh and modern read for today’s kids! • This fun series will appeal to readers 10+ and has young adult crossover
potential • Ellen Alexander is a retired Missouri school teacher and uses her experience to write what kids want to read, including interactive and exciting
treasure hunts.

Also available in trade softcover (ISBN: 978-1-947727-55-7) and Ebook (ISBN: 978-1-948540-36-0). Ebook also available through Overdrive. • This coming-of-age mystery series blends the mystery and...

Advance Praise

"I found the plot and characters engaging." —LibraryThing Early Reviewers

"I found the plot and characters engaging." —LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Marketing Plan

• Online advertising and promotion

• Special prepublication mailings

• National book festival promotion

• E-newsletter promotion

• Author appearances at local and national festivals

• Targeted email marketing to ALA librarians

• Reading group guides

• Social media promotion

• Blog features and promotions

• Online advertising and promotion

• Special prepublication mailings

• National book festival promotion

• E-newsletter promotion

• Author appearances at local and national festivals

• Targeted...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781948540483
PRICE $26.95 (USD)

Average rating from 42 members

Featured Reviews

This book is a middle grade adventure novel. The four main characters (2 boys and 2 girls) were 12 years old. Most of the book was a typical boarding school story: making new friends, learning their way around the school, special events like a dance and athletic competitions, and a little bit of romance. They learn about both the school's need for funds and the hidden treasure near the beginning of the story, but little progress was made after an initial failed attempt to solve the clues. The last 20% of the story gets them on the right track, and they solve riddle after riddle to overcome dangerous challenges.

The characters were likable, and the riddle sequence was very exciting (especially as Bad Guys were following after them). The school sequences were enjoyable, but I'd expected the book to be more focused on the mystery than on social challenges. Actual tweens (as the intended audience) will probably find this more emotionally engaging than I did. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this fun story.

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I received a complimentary of this eBook from the author, publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Emma, Doug and friends find out that their boarding school is home to a treasure under the school with a riddle placed there by a famous pirate that recently used to live in the castle but died and gave the castle over to be made in the school, they go try to find it. Is someone else seeking it too? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good action-packed adventure YA middle grade story that is inspired by the movie the goonies. If you enjoy books like this, definitely check the book out when it officially releases to bookstores and wherever books are sold online on February 26,2019.

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A great fun read about making friends and adventure. This is really enjoyable and easy paced. The characters are really relatable (even though I’m no longer a teenager) it’s aimed more at the early teen market and I feel would be a great read for them, although I’m older I still enjoyed it, but a younger reader would have more in common with the books. Lovely feel good factor. Really enjoyable.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion

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I loved this book! It's written with teenagers in mind, but I enjoyed it as an adult woman. This is a nice adventure story with mysteries. The start reminded me a little of Harry Potter, but without the magic. A few chapters in the story gets less HP-like and more into it's own style. I found some parts actually exciting, even though it wasn't very realistic. The parts describing the castle were very livid and I could imagine myself seeing it. Not too young-adult so no obvious romance was in this book. I also liked that the writing style was not too childish.

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Definitely has a classic feel to it, and is entertaining from start to finish. I felt connected to the main characters and their hunt for treasure, then their hunt to beat the others to the treasure, all so they can save their boarding school. Definitely a great adventure.

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This was such a fun book! I've always been a fan of books that take place at schools ever since reading Harry Potter as a child. I loved reading about all the adventures of every day life at Dinswood, and of course the hunt for the treasure left me on the edge of my seat. Each new clue had a new more dangerous adventure. Some parts were very repetitive, but it was still an enjoyable read. I hope to read more about the gangs future years at Dinswood.

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I really enjoyed my time reading this. It was a fun and quick read. Loved the mystery. Could have done without the romance though.

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This was such a fun read! A group of boarding school kids trying to solve riddles and mysteries is always something I find entertaining. I feel like if you enjoy mystery with tons of fun, a good cast of characters and school setting then this will definitely be a hit for you.

Even though I enjoyed this book, I can't say that I loved it. Nothing was wrong with it per se, but I guess I just wanted something more in order to fully love this story.

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This book is an adventure book about four students who meet each other during their first year at a prestigious school that was once a castle. I read it with my nine year old daughter and she was quick to point out similarities between it and Harry Potter. However there is no magic in this book's world, and the adventure centers around discovering a pirate treasure that could save the future of their beloved, financially challenged school. Emma, the main character, is a very likeable twelve year old, and I am glad to see an adventure book with a female lead that isn't a fairy, witch, or princess. The book moves pretty slowly at first, but the action definitely picks up at the end. My third grader enjoyed the book, although she was a bit bored in the beginning and wasn't interested in girl/boy relationships. Emma developes a crush on fellow student, friend, and adventure seeker, Doug. It is a very sweet and innocent crush. No "gross" kissing, as my daughter would say. I felt it was an appropriate coming of age story. I would recommend this book for kids a little older. 11-13. It is a good book for young readers and as an elementary librarian, I think it will be popular with our 4-6 graders.

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I really enjoyed the plot of this story and wanted to know what happened with the mystery and adventure aspects of the novel. The story was fast-paced and intriguing with interesting characters and plot twists that I didn't expect!

I felt the writing style was a little "old-fashioned" and some of the ways boys and girls were described felt like the book had been written a number of years ago.

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of The Secret of Dinswood by Ellen Alexander. I voluntarily read and reviewed this copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

While studying at the Dinswood boarding school, four teenagers become friends and discover that a treasure hidden by the school's founder could be what they need to save their school from financial troubles. In order to find the treasure they must solve all the riddles before someone else does.

The Secret of Dinswood is a story full of mystery, adventure and most important of all, friendship. The friendship between Emma, Martha, Doug and Sebastian is the foundation of this great story and flowed strongly throughout the whole book. The mystery never felt dragged on. The switch between heartfelt and dialogue chapters and the adventure and action chapters felt very natural. As a reader I was fully committed from the first page.

The transition between different POV's was confusing at times. Maybe because of the E-book format, but quite a few sentences needed to be reread in order to determine that the POV had changed.

All in all, a highly enjoyable book full of adventure that I recommend to readers of all ages.

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This is a fun, middle grade adventure novel set in a castle boarding school. Fans of Harry Potter who like the aspects of adventure with a group of friends in a boarding school location should enjoy this. There is no magical element to the adventures and most of the action happens toward the end of the book. The boarding school is a Christian school but the author is not heavy-handed with the religion. The book models positive values like patience, persistence, and being there for others. I would recommend for middle grades and older readers who enjoy books in this style.

Thanks to NetGalley, BHC Press, and the author Ellen Alexander for an advanced electronic review copy.

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A Cozy Middle Grade Mystery In A Boarding House School

Oh, how I loved this wonderful adventure! The Secret of Dinswood is just the kind of book I wish I had read more of when I was actually in my middle grade years. There’s just something empowering about a bunch of kids solving mysteries and riddles, and potentially getting themselves in trouble, skulking around dark caves and castle hallways! Even aside from that, there’s the whole allure of kids in a boarding school, especially one in a castle! I absolutely loved The Secret of Dinswood, and I sure do hope this book will have a sequel. The little number 1, stamped on the cover, gives me hope! As does the ending. I hope it won’t take long till I can read about this fun bunch of adventurers again.

It's About...

Emma is lonely. After losing her mother and with her father having started a new family, she feels alone and abandoned. That’s why she decides to look for a new place to belong. The solution comes in the form of a boarding school – and not just a simple one, but one with a rich history and situated in a beautiful castle. Being bright, Emma wins the scholarship and settles straight in. But she’s worried she won’t be able to enjoy the company of her friends for long, because rumor has it that the school is struggling financially. However, rumor also has it that the school was built by pirates on top of a big treasure… And it’s up to Emma and her friends to find out whether that’s true or not.

Just The Right Amount of Mystery, Adventure and Tension
The mood of The Secret of Dinswood is just right! It’s exactly what I imagine a middle grade adventure should be. There’s got to be a certain amount of mystery – but not to much, because what you expect from a good middle grade adventure is… that you’ll be able to crack it before the characters do (…or is that just me..?) You’ve also got to remember that most of its readers will be younger than you! So if you’ve cracked it, it will probably be enjoyable to them too, and may even be challenging, depending on a readers’ age. I loved this mystery – it had all the prerequisites! Let’s count them out:

- an old, romantic castle with secret passages and riddles
- pirates! PIRATES!!
- some actual baddies that pose the right amount of danger: they might get you, but you’re also probably safe cause there are adults around
- and… where would we be without good friends to fight your battles with

All of that makes a wonderful adventure, at least for me! It had the right amount of clues to still leave me guessing sometimes – which is just the right amount of mystery I enjoy as well. (But keep in mind, I am a gullible reader. However, that probably means your middle grade reader will enjoy the mystery too!)

Along with a good recipe for a nice adventure, The Secret of Dinswood also has nice, uncomplicated storytelling. I like some nice flowery prose, but sometimes I just want a story that doesn’t beat around the bush either. The Secret of Dinswood is told in a simple way, so the story flows along well and is easily readable. You don’t need to concentrate too much or work at it. Just sit down and let it entertain you.

There’s Just Something About Boarding Schools In Books…
I wonder what it is that we like about boarding school stories so much? I think I am far from being the only one who enjoys boarding school stories, despite never having lived in one, or, god forbid, ever wanting to live in one. What is it that so appeals to us in these settings?
Well, for one thing, I guess a school in a castle already presents a setting that has the promise of all sorts of secrets lurking around the corner. But I don’t think it’s just that – I think what also appeals to us is the way human relationships can be explored in depth in such a setting. Students live with each other, eat their meals together – essentially, they become their own little world. Strong relationships are natural in these contexts, and I think we enjoy seeing them develop in front of our eyes.

The Secret of Dinswood, while not a magical boarding school, was still no exception – we see budding relationships as well as friendships and rivalries form in the school. Although the book is written more from a girl’s perspective, it gives a lot of attention to the boys as well. The story centers on Emma, a poor kid in a rich people’s school – and how she finds friends and adapts. Although we only ever see everything through Emma’s prism, the story is told in third person and gives a lot of attention to Emma’s best friend Martha, as well as their friends Doug and Sebastian. What I found the most adorable in the whole book was the budding affection between Emma and Doug – innocent and only on the friendship level for now, but so sweet, genuine and lovely. The reason why I love romance (or, like, pre-romance?) in middle grades as opposed to YA is because there is just so much less angst about crushes in middle grade books, and things just somehow work out. I’m aware that this mostly isn’t the case in the real world, but come on… Let me dream?

But It Also Does Heavy Topics
However, The Secret of Dinswood doesn’t just paint everything pink and flowery. There are quite a few heavier subjects that are dealt with in the book. For starters, there is the theme about the loss of a parent – both Emma and Doug have lost their mothers, although in different circumstances. They get a chance to share their burdens and talk these painful subjects through, helping each other deal with it. And not just that – they are also teased about it and have to learn to cope with how unfeeling the world can sometimes be to another person’s pain and loss.

Besides that, there is the theme of snobbery – the clash of the rich and poor, and prejudice that comes from it. Emma and Doug both come from simpler circumstances and are in the school through a scholarship – they had to work for it and they know where they stand. Meanwhile, most of the other kids comes from affluent families, some of which are completely unaware of their blessings. Worse than that, of course there will be “rich or poor” altitudes in a school like that. Emma and Doug get teased about being poor as well as not having a full family. The reader gets to see multiple attitudes – the people who think less of them because they aren’t rich, and the people who don’t. Ultimately, the message is that you can always choose your outlook and someone’s circumstances shouldn’t change their position in your eyes.

Overall, I really really enjoyed this story. The Secret of Dinswood is somewhere in between of mysteries for children with young detectives and young adventurers looking for treasure. It was just the right kind of amusing, cozy mystery with a great ending. I enjoyed it very much and will be impatiently waiting for the sequels!

I thank BHC Press for giving me a free copy of the book in exchange to my honest opinion. Receiving the book for free does not affect my opinion.

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my thoughts in any way.

The book in a few words: Boarding school. Pirate treasure. Mysterious hunt. Beautiful friendships. If that does not intrigue you at least a tiny bit, then I'm not sure this book's for you.

The Secret of Dinswood follows a group of students from Dinswood Academy in their quest to save their school from financial troubles by hunting for Lord Dinswood's hidden treasure. For a school that's been struggling financially, Dinswood Academy is so freaking extravagant! This is exactly the kind of school I would've dreamed of attending during my childhood.

Emma and her friends only went on this hunt to save their school from crippling financial troubles. They go on and on about how they must save the school because it means everything to them despite only being there for, what, a few months? Granted, they did meet their best friends there but is going to separate schools really that awful to risk their lives on the hunt?

The main character here is so well-developed; I love her so much! At the start of the book, I could really feel Emma's insecurities and anxiousness of being out of place in Dinswood Academy. Since it's a prestigious boarding school, only accepting the richest of the rich, Emma could only afford to go there because of her scholarship. Despite the best efforts of her friends, she can't deny that sometimes, she feel alienated among the wealthy crowd of students. I absolutely sympathize for her because I, personally, know that feeling which made me love and understand her better.

With that, I'd like to mention that Martha, Emma's best friend, is the epitome of a great friend. She has always been there for Emma from the beginning, and she has never let the superficial things like financial status get in the way of their friendship. However, although Martha has been a wonderful buddy to Emma, she hasn't been much help in the treasure hunt and frankly, she's a bit repetitive too. In another time, and in another story, I really would have loved her more.

The pacing was a bit slow at first, which allowed readers to fully get to know the main characters and get accustomed to the school. Unfortunately, I think the book could have done with a little bit of a faster pace in terms of the mystery since they only discovered a substantial piece of clue at around 72% of the book, and they were still clueless up to that point.

This is a great book and I would really recommend it if you don't mind a slower pace in mystery and if you love stories in boarding schools as much as I do!

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The Secret of Dinswood is a fun adventure novel for young teenagers. It harkens back to the likes of Enid Blyton and Scooby Doo! A very entertaining read full of pirates, mystery and friendship.

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If I had to describe this, it would be Malory Towers meet The Famous Five - a mystery set in a boarding school where there's strict teachers, early curfews and great friends.

I knew from the prologue that I'd like this book. The story was interesting and the sentences were not difficult to understand or get used to. Since it is targeted towards middle grade children, the sentences were short but not too simple. The pacing was suitable and it was an easy read that'd be perfect to read after a long day.

The Secret of Dinswood was suspenseful and cleverly planned. The riddles are somewhat easy to understand the characters are likable. Some of the side characters are one-dimensional but played very important roles in the development of the story.

I also liked the closure of the story and how it was written. It is sad that this isn't a series because I'd like to read more about their lives in Dinswood.

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This was a great middle grade novel. I always seem to enjoy books involving boarding schools. The friendships between the main characters was very well written. I also loved the mystery aspect of this book. I would most definitely recommend giving this one a try.

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This is definitely a fun middle grade story.

It had a lot of adventure throughout the plot, and the setting of a castle boarding school was rather charming. I think younger readers who are fans of Harry Potter would love the adventures that the characters get up to throughout the story. I do think some of the descriptions felt a little bit old-fashioned, bordering on cheesy, however I'm not sure that middle grade readers would pick up on these small little cliches as much as an adult reader would.

Overall, it was a fast paced and exciting read!

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I really enjoyed this book! I think the plot was very comprehensive, and the characterization deep. I especially liked the way the writing was evocative and helped you feel and think the same way the characters did! - All in all an excellent book, everyone should read it!

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This is a fun, clever middle-grade book that boasts a story with appeal for both an audience the same age as the characters and for adult readers.

Alexander really nails the atmosphere component of the book. The plot, too, is clever and's kind of like Harry Potter meets Goonies. Add in a likable group of kids, riddles with just the right degree of difficulty for the target audience, and pirate treasure and you've got a real winner of a story.

There were, however, a few elements of the book that were too problematic to be ignored and cost it a 5-star review.

First, it's simply too long. I appreciate the attention to detail (descriptions of all the little things about the school, very much in the style of JK Rowling,) but there is SO much filler material in this book that should be edited out. I could have done without, for example, the several pages that give play-by-play of a three-legged race.

The second problem is a bigger one, and it's is that the author seems very out of touch. Sometimes that just results in quality issues (the way Alexander tells us the 7th graders are dressed makes it seem like she's never seen an actual 7th grader. Also, no one under the age of 40 uses the word "slacks.")

That alone I could have overlooked, but the author's clearly Christian conservative bent is really hard to ignore and quite frankly, completely obnoxious. This book is not billed as "Christian fiction," so it feels like a bit of a bait and switch. The mentions of the students going to chapel is fine, but Alexander's beliefs creep in all over the place in a way that I expect would alienate a large portion of the target audience. And speaking of out of touch, I'm still half laughing, half cringing at "The school did not celebrate Halloween, as it is a pagan holiday." Ms Alexander was clearly born about 100 years too late for her line of thinking.

The above is tough to get past, and I imagine will be impossible to get past for some readers, but I really, really enjoyed the premise of the story. I'd certainly read another, IF the above issues are addressed in the second installment.

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This was my first book by this author, It was pretty enjoyable. I would give this book a 3.5 star rating! It was a pretty Quick and easy read!

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I found the book intriguing. It was easy to get invested in the characters. However, the author has a tendency to tell rather than show. This slowed down the pace of the book. While not quite the page-turner it could have been, it is still an enjoyable read.

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