Toward the bottom of the Top 100 list, at number 90, is The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston. I read this book (and the rest of the series) for the first time a few years ago because Eva raved about it. I fell immediately in love with the series and lamented that I hadn’t found them as a child. The one thing I didn’t realize was that this first book in the series was written in 1954. It feels much, much older with its castle and ghosts and the easy combining of nature, religion and tradition.
What it’s about: This book introduces us to the stone house which dates from Norman times. Though it has had many names over the years, it has always come back to being called Green Knowe. The story starts with a young boy named Toseland who is coming to live with his Great-Grandmother Oldknow. He has lost his mother and his father has remarried and moved to the East so he is feeling a bit alone. But although there are only two living people in the home, it is alive with the spirits of those who have come before. Over the fireplace is a portrait of three children–Toby, Alexander and Linnet–from the 1800s who have left behind some of their treasures in the home and perhaps a bit of themselves as well.
Age level: Grade 3-6
Best character: Mrs. Oldknow is an amazing lady. She gives Tolly the opportunity to explore Green Knowe and find out most of its secrets on his own. She also still believes in all of the magic of the place so this isn’t one of those stories where only the kid can see the ghosts. She actually sees them more often than Tolly does because she’s known them since she was a child. She’s also kind and gentle and still spry despite what must be her advanced age as a great-grandmother.
Worst character: Green Noah … only because he’s a scary, evil shrubbery that tries to attack Tolly on a dark night during a thunderstorm.
Like I mentioned before, this book seems much older than it is. It could be because the Oldknows don’t have electricity or a car or many other modernities even though they exist outside of their small world. It could also be because of the amount of time spent in the past with their ancestors’ stories. The lines of time are blurred giving a quality of agelessness. I love that about this book — the idea that the past, present and future of a place are not linear but layered and can be navigated by a sensitive believer.
This read counts for the Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge as a fantasy title.
I’ve scheduled time off for our (very late) Spring Break, my birthday/Easter (they’re on the same day this year) and Readathon, so I’ll be back in mid-May with The High King, the final book in the Chronicles of Prydain series. I read the first book, The Book of Three, for this project so, as a series completist, I’ll fit in the middle three books before I get to the last one.