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The Children of Green Knowe
by L.M. Boston
Lucy Maria Boston lived almost a hundred years, and it was a good thing. She wrote eight books for children — or rather, she wrote them for herself, though they have been loved by many children — and she didn’t even start writing until she was over sixty. Five of her books were about the homey, magical grounds of the English castle Green Noah, also known as Green Knowe. This is the first of those books, and it’s gorgeous.
Usually, at this point, I would be expected to tell you something about what happens in the book. But “what happens” isn’t really such a big thing, in terms of plot or dramatic shape. The experience of reading this book is like being in a very lovely place that you would prefer not to leave. There are stories in it — wonderful, fascinating stories — and there is drama too, some of it quite hair-raising. But an overall summary of the story would be as follows:
Little Toseland, sometimes known as Tolly, is sent to stay with his great-grandmother at Green Noah during the Christmas holidays. He has never been there before, but it turns out to be the very place where he really belongs. It’s an ancient but well-preserved castle with delightful gardens, though prone to flooding from the nearby river. And the cozy old house is full of the laughter and pattering feet of other children who lived there, ages ago.
Tolly gradually learns to see and hear them, and makes friends with them. Meanwhile he learns more of their history, and the history of the house in general, from his wonderful Granny Oldknow. These two — and, it seems, others before them — may simply be sensitive to the memory of Oldknow children past. Or the place may be haunted. Haunted, particularly, by three delightful children whose lives were cut short centuries ago — Toby, Alexander, and Linnet — and the wild animals and birds they have tamed. Haunted, as well, by living statues, walking trees, and other voices and figures that appear from time to time.
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter whether it’s real or make-believe. It is so full of innocent fun, historical drama, the love of nature, warm companionship, holiday traditions, and a touch of wistfulness, that you won’t want to let it go. You will fall in love with the people, and want to wrap yourself up in the place. Luckily, you can pay a return visit in Treasure of Green Knowe.