9/16/08

Timeslip Tuesday: The Ghosts, by Antonia Barber

In my Timeslip Tuesday posts, I seem (generally) to have two broad categories of book--those that are recent, and new to me, and those that I read as a child--books that have haunted me ever since. Today's book is one of the later, one I read as a nine year old, and recently found again: The Ghosts, by Antonia Barber (1969 , ages 10 and up).* On the left is the cover I knew as a child, at the bottom is the modern reprint cover that is utterly and completely hideous and enough to turn anyone against the poor book forever.

On a cold and rainy night in London, a stranger comes to the home of Lucy and Jamie. He brings good news--the offer of a job for their mother, as caretaker to a country house. This comes as a godsend to the family, struggling to hold on after the father's death. And despite the strange circumstances, and the vague mystery surrounding the old man, the offer is good. Lucy and Jamie are ecstatic to have an old house and its garden to explore...undeterred by whispers that the place is haunted.

But it is haunted, in a way. Sarah and Georgie, two children from the past, have been travelling to the present in a desperate effort to find help. A hundred years ago, someone wants them dead, and judging from the two small headstones in the churchyard, that person succeeded. Lucy and Jamie are the first people the not-yet-dead children meet who aren't too afraid to listen to their story. Now they must find the courage to go back to Sarah and Georgie's time, to save them from the terrible fire that killed them.

The Ghosts is still in many library systems, and it's available quite cheaply used. I promise that if you have a child who likes time travel stories, and who will not quail at some rather scary bits (the fire is truly terrible), they will like this book. It's hard to promise to grownups that they will like a children's book, because of grownups having lost that first fine freshness, as it were. But when I, who am grown up, re-read it to review here, I was still all wide-eyed and trepidatious at Lucy's first meeting with the ghost children, horrified by the discovery of their graves, and flinching and face-making during the fire....I still love it. I had a look at the reviews on Amazon, and they almost all echo my sentiments. Except for one pedant who gets in a snit about the twisted logic of time travel. Hmph to him (or possibly her).

This book was reprinted in the UK as The Amazing Mr. Blunden, after a movie was made of it with that name in 1972. I deliberately did not try to explain Mr. Blunden or his amazingness in the review because it would have gotten too complicated and spoilerish.

So anyway, here's the lovely cover of the most recent edition:

Bother. It didn't come out very large--sorry. If you peer closely, you can see Lucy and Jamie's heads floating in a cauldron of time travel elixir...

As ever, if anyone has a review of a timeslip book up that they'd like to share, let me know and I'll put up a link!

*This post was up for about over a year, lacking the picture of the book from my childhood, because I hadn't been able to find one. Then, out of the blue, a kind reader sent me a link! Thank you, kind reader.

5 comments:

  1. i've been googling this book tonight because i just rediscovered it in my bookshelf today. I forgot I owned a copy. I love it so much. Have always loved it. Of all my timeslip novels from childhood, this is one of the best. A chilling, beautiful story!

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  2. Thanks for commenting, Bells! I agree with you 100 percent.

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  4. Wow I read this as a kid and it just popped into my head the other night for no apparent reason. I decided to search around for it on line but couldn't remember the author. Finally, this is very satisfying to see the exact book cover that I remember. Liked very much as a kid and thinking about ordering it as an adult, why not?

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    1. I liked it very much re-reading it as an adult, I hope you do too!

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