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Martha Wells

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marthawells

Green Knowe by Lucy Boston

forodwaith reminded me about the Green Knowe books series. It doesn't have the "modern family moves into spooky old house" theme we were talking about with The House of Dies Drear, but it does have one of the most awesome spooky old houses in children's lit. (It's also based on a real house.)

The series is by Lucy Boston, and while each book deals with a kid who comes to the house to stay for a time and ends up meeting ghosts or something supernatural, each book has a different feel. The first two books are the ones I liked the best. In the first (The Children of Green Knowe), modern-day boy Tolly comes to stay in the house and meets three 17th century children-ghosts and has fun adventures with them, and oh yeah, there's a thing in the garden that eats children, so he better watch out. In the second (The Chimneys of Green Knowe/The Treasure of Green Knowe), there's a story within a story, where Tolly hears about Jacob, a young black boy rescued from slavery by the sea captain who owned the house during the regency. Tolly finds out more about the house's secrets while trying to find traces that Jacob left behind, while in the past Jacob tries to help the captain's blind daughter and not get killed by the evil butler. Though I did really like An Enemy of Green Knowe, where Tolly and Ping (a Chinese boy who is a war refugee, and the main character of two of the previous books) get together to fight off an attack on Green Knowe by an evil necromancer and it is pretty freaking scary.
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I can remember the plots of a lot of books I read as a kid but have no idea of title or author; it's very frustrating.

Oh, I love all those books! My favorite "spooky old house" story is "The Snowstorm" (also called 'The Snow Ghosts') by Beryl Netherclift. Three English children go to stay with their aunt, who lives in the old ancestral mansion, which she's about to lose because she can't pay the taxes.

The kids find a snowglobe, and shake it...and somehow, a mysterious boy appears. Or have *they* mysteriously gone back in time? Their aunt disappears, and the kids decide to search for the hidden treasure the boy tells them is hidden somewhere in the house.

There are secret passageways, moving walls, and hidden rooms. When I was ten, I wanted an ancestral home!

Cool, that one sounds good.

When I was ten, I wanted an ancestral home!

I did too. :)

I think I spent around 2000 hours wanting to live in Green Knowe when I was little. (And also wishing for a massive flood, which I somehow thought would make my utterly normal home more Green Knowe-like, instead of just, you know, UNDER WATER. Small children who live in deserts don't really understand the destructive power of water.) Those are truly awesome books.

They really are. I suspect they started my spooky old house fascination.

The other cool thing about Green Knowe was that there was always something different about it, it was a place that could never be fully explored. And no matter what happened there, the protagonists were always the better for it.

The other cool thing about Green Knowe was that there was always something different about it, it was a place that could never be fully explored.

I know! I had a moment of childhood woe when I realized that that house had more history than my entire country. Which is not actually true, but for a kid raised on mostly British children's books, it sure felt that way. All those kids had big weird houses with attics full of furniture older than my city! And we didn't even have a basement. How could awesome magical adventures ever happen to me?

No, really. I resented my parents for years for living in a city where there weren't any basements. They were depriving me of my magical destiny!

Yeah, I never had a basement, and the attics I've lived under have been so hot, low-ceilinged, dusty, and full of insulation as to drop the life expectancy of anybody who was up there for more than five minutes. There was just no scope for exploring or magical adventure.

And there were NEVER any secret passages. There weren't even walls thick enough for a secret passage. I hopefully inspected the dimensions of every room in every house I spent much time in, looking for the tell-tale variance that would indicate a secret passage or room, but no. (I also counted windows because of a book my sister and I were both enamored of, wherein there were 100 windows outside but only 99 windows on the inside, and therein was the adventure.)

I tell you, modern architects need to read more children's books.

The Green Knowe books are on my comfort read shelf, along with the Wind in the Willows (significant house: Ratty's) and The Little White Horse which has the most marvellous house in it. If you haven't read it yet,get it.

Yep, I wish I still had copies of the Green Knowe books. I'll have to see if I can find them somewhere.

Oh, I adored the Green Knowe books! although I credit/blame them for my persistent terror of malevolent topiary. :)

The topiary scene was terrifying!

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