The great thing about imaginary time is that it is malleable. And so I am going to back post this to 11:59 last night, so that it counts for Timeslip Tuesday!
Browsing in my library for books for the 48 hour reading challenge (not that I needed any more, exactly, but it's good to have a big pond to go fishing in), I picked up a slim book by Helen Cresswell, an English author with whom I have a nodding acquaintance--A Game of Catch (1969, American edition MacMillan 1977, middle grade, 44pp). I'm glad I did, not so much for my own sake (I'm too old to fall completely in love with a 44 page book), but because this is a book I want to recommend. This is one of those books, I think, that if you read it young, will become part of you the way that those very special books do, stunning you on first read, and their images and echoes coming back to you throughout your life.
"Hello!" cries Kate from the walls of the old castle she and her brother Hugh are exploring, not dreaming that there is anyone to hear. "I'm Kate!" and the echoes pick up her name....and she hears children laughing, and calling her name back to her.
The old caretaker also hears her, and warns. "...echoes is best left be."
"They stared at him. "Best left be?" repeated Kate.
"Echoes is funny things Best left where they belong. Particular in an old place like this. I don't believe in rousing up echoes, myself."
Kate shivered and pulled up her scarf around her throat." (page 3)
Out skating with her brother, a little while later, she finds the children who were calling her--a brother and a sister, two 18th-century children whose picture she had seen at the castle, caught for ever in a game of catch. And now they want her to play with them too, skating across the twilight ice to join her.
It is magical, understated, and riveting without being scary.* It makes pictures in the mind that are crystal clear and haunting (helped by the very atmospheric pen and ink illustrations by Ati Forberg). If you have a nine year old, or something like that,** who's looking for a short but somewhat challenging book, do look this one out.
A Game of Catch was re-issued in 1999, with this cover, which I don't exactly care for. I'm not sure if the original illustrations were included...and it would be a shame if they weren't.
*As I was typing the previous sentence, a line from The Shinning was going through my head--when the two ghost children say "Now you will play with us forever!" or something like that. Totally different. These are nice children.
**On Amazon it says 4-8. Ignore that, unless your child is one of those 8 year olds who is reading anything and is not thrown by new words. The vocabulary is too sophisticated (mullioned, anyone?) for a very young reader.