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I'd never heard of the Green Knowe books until I recently picked this one up.  Too bad, this is a story I would have loved to have someone read to me when I was a kid and which I look forward to reading to my own kids.  It is the magical, mysterious tale of young Master Toseland, who goes to spend the Christmas holiday with his great-grandmother Mrs. Oldknow at the family estate of Green Noah.  Arriving by train, he finds the grounds flooded and the groundskeeper, Mr. Boggis, must pick him up in a rowboat to carry him to the house.  It gradually becomes apparent that the house is temporally as well as physically isolated.  First through overheard giggles and then by shadowy glimpses, it is revealed to Tolly (as Mrs. Oldknow calls him) that the house is inhabited by the spirits of children from generations long passed.  In particular, Toby, Linnet and Alexander, three siblings felled by the plague hundreds of years earlier, romp about the building and grounds.  Mrs Oldknow, who is well aware of the phenomena, tells Tolly stories about the children and the history of the manor, including a gypsy curse that was placed on a creepy topiary of Noah, which is how the place (originally Green Knowe) got its name.

Lucy Boston was inspired to write these books--this is the first in a series of eight--after restoring the Manor House at Hemingford Grey, which dates to the year 1130.  The restoration process discovered all kinds of hidden fireplaces and windows and other reminders of the house's ancient past.  This apparently awakened in her a sense of history on a human scale and reminded her of how easily we ignore such things.  She set out to help others recall this sense of wonder:

    I would like to remind adults of joy, now obsolete, and I would like to encourage children to use
    and trust their senses for themselves at first hand--their ears, eyes and noses, their fingers and soles
    of their feet, their skins and their breathing, their muscular joy and rhythms and heartbeats, their
    instinctive loves and pity and awe of the unknown.

She succeeded brilliantly.  This enchanting book is suffused with an aura magic and a real spirit of joy.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Children's Books
Book-related and General Links:
    -Encyclopaedia Britannica: Boston, Lucy
    -Lucy Boston's Green Knowe Series (KidLit Online Edition - 2)
    -ESSAY: CHILDREN'S BOOKS; Magic That Endures: Two Classic Children's Spellbinders Turn 40 (Noel Perrin, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Crosscurrents in The River at Green Knowe by L.M. Boston (David Lenander, Children's Literature Association Conference)
    -ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA: children's literature: Historical sketches of the major literatures: England: Overview
    -ESSAY: "What's another book like Redwall." (Sandra Says, City and Borough of Juneau,  Juneau Public Library )
    -REVIEW: The Children of Green Knowe (Iestyn Evans)
    -An exploration of Green Knowe by Maureen Kincaid Speller