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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

L. M. Boston's thrilling and chilling tales of Green Knowe, a haunted manor deep in an overgrown garden in the English countryside, have been entertaining readers for half a century. There are three children: Toby, who rides the majestic horse Feste; his mischievous little sister, Linnet; and their brother, Alexander, who plays the flute. The children warmly welcome Tolly to Green Knowe... even though they've been dead for centuries. But that's how everything is at Green Knowe. The ancient manor hides as many stories as it does dusty old rooms. And the master of the house is great-grandmother Oldknow, whose storytelling mixes present and past with the oldest magic in the world.…

Overall Book Review:

The Children of Green Knowe, by Lucy M. Boston, is considered by many to be a classic work of horror, specifically children’s horror, but this classic reputation may be simply because it is old. The book is relatively short, and that is a good thing, since the action moves at a snail’s pace. Much of the story is simply a detailing of uneventful exploration of the old house and grounds of the Green Knowe estate. The remainder of the book is comprised of stories told to a child by the occupants of the manor. Only one of these stories really has much substance, and a book-length version of that side-item story could have been more interesting than the actual book.

I was anticipating good things from this book, as I’d read in advance that it was mysterious and even a bit creepy in places. However, though it is a ghost story, readers will likely not find it even remotely scary, even the young middle-grade readers at which it is targeted.  It’s true that not every ghost story needs spooky moments, and some great ghost stories are either humorous or poignantly sad, but this story really doesn’t have any of those aspects. The plot is almost non-existent. The characters are one-dimensional. The setting is unique only in that the manor seems to flood often and has enough rooms and outdoor areas that the young protagonist can explore. A haunted manor and a young boy left to run free within its confines seems like it would make a great story – if only some of those doors and environs held something worth exploring.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  None

Note:  A word that is now commonly used as a slur against homosexual men is used in its original meaning to refer to a piece of wood; “ass” is used to refer to a donkey (neither tallied).

Violence/Gore:  An animal bites a character (no damage); report of a few deaths by accidents involving horses; a few reports of injuries and death in war; report of a man’s knee broken by a horse; report of historic vandalism; report of a few characters dying of natural causes; a character is gravely ill; a horse is hit with a switch to encourage speed; a character and horse struggle through floodwaters and debris; a few spooky scenes involving sounds (laughter, voices), brief ghostly touches, or the appearance of ghostly children and animals; a bridge is destroyed.

Sex/Nudity:  A character is described as “naked” (but is actually wearing a Greek toga-style skirt); a story contains account of someone considering marriage to a cousin (told as if this was accepted practice at the time); report of a handsome man flirting with girls.

Mature Subject Matter:

Horse theft, death of a family member (in the past), plague (mention), paranormal (ghosts).

Alcohol / Drug Use:

A character is said to like to drink too much; adults drink beer (mention); mention of “strong magic wine”; child drinks grog; report of a character drugged to unconsciousness.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My taste in literature leans heavily towards sci-fi, fantasy, and (my favorite) horror, and the latter can present some fairly murky waters for parents to let their children explore. I enjoy novels of both the standard and graphic varieties. Since those genres, and graphic novels in particular, tend to appeal to boys, I hope that I can help other Boy Mommies in their quest to find books that their little video gamers--I mean, future bibliophiles will read and enjoy. When I am not reading, I enjoy tabletop role-playing games, video games, and singing karaoke. I have a wonderful husband who lets me indulge my reading habit by sharing the housework and being a great dad to our genius kids and their faithful hound.