The Velvet Room
by Zilpha Snyder, published 1965
“From that first glimpse, from that first minute, it was more than a room–more than even the most beautiful room Robin had ever seen. Her hands shook on the door knob…”
The Velvet Room is a most unusual and unique children’s book. As I read it, I was constantly wondering where it was going and what was I being offered? It is certainly a look at the experience of migrant workers in old California, but it doesn’t feel like the purpose of the book is historical fiction. That is simply the setting. It is also a look at the challenges of living in poverty with a family of many mouths to feed.
However, the concluding point came as a bit of a surprise to me, where Robin, a girl not yet in high school, is offered a chance to live in comfort, attend school, perhaps rise out of poverty, at the cost of leaving her family. In my mind, I would have thought that option was worth a great deal. However, the author makes quite a different point, much to my surprise. I won’t spoil the ending, but it definitely made the children’s book more thought-provoking than I had first expected.
Again, an excellent children’s book to use for studying American history, as it is such a good depiction of life in agricultural California in the 1930’s, following the great economic depression.
This book seems hard to find at a reasonable cost on Amazon except for a Kindle version. Barnes and Nobles has better access to the book. I found it at the local library, which may be a better source, or your local bookstore can order it.