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The Children of Green Knowe Paperback – April 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

This is not an easy book, and therein lies its charm. L.M. Boston's classic is a sophisticated mood piece disguised as a children's ghost story. As young Toseland goes to live with his grandmother in the family's ancestral home, the reader is plunged immediately into the world of Green Knowe. Like Toseland, who actually rows up to his new home in the midst of a flood, we have a hard time finding our bearings. Toseland discovers a funny kind of grandmother awaiting him--one who speaks elliptically of the children and animals she keeps around the house: they might be memories, they might be ghosts. It's never quite clear where real life leaves off and magic begins. Toseland admires a deer: "A deer seems more magic than a horse." His grandmother is quick to respond: "Very beautiful fairy-tale magic, but a horse that thinks the same thoughts that you do is like strong magic wine, a love philtre for boys."

With this meshing of the magical and the real, Boston evokes a childlike world of wonder. She compounds the effect by combining gorgeous images and eerily evocative writing. Toseland goes out on a snowy morning: "In front of him, the world was an unbroken dazzling cloud of crystal stars, except for the moat, which looked like a strip of night that had somehow sinned and had no stars in it." The loosely plotted story is given more resonance still through liberal use of biblical imagery and Anglo-Saxon mythology. For those willing to suspend their disbelief and read carefully, the world of Green Knowe offers a wondrous escape. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This is a book . . . to own and read aloud and come back to over and over again. It is one of the best fantasies I have ever read."--Horn Book
"An uncommon tale . . . told with a gratifying blend of the eerie, the sinister, and the familiar."--New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Series: Green Knowe
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152024689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152024680
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'd never heard of the Green Knowe books until I recently picked this one up. Too bad, this is a story I would have loved to have someone read to me when I was a kid and which I look forward to reading to my own kids. It is the magical, mysterious tale of young Master Toseland, who goes to spend the Christmas holiday with his great-grandmother Mrs. Oldknow at the family estate of Green Noah. Arriving by train, he finds the grounds flooded and the groundskeeper, Mr. Boggis, must pick him up in a rowboat to carry him to the house. It gradually becomes apparent that the house is temporally as well as physically isolated. First through overheard giggles and then by shadowy glimpses, it is revealed to Tolly (as Mrs. Oldknow calls him) that the house is inhabited by the spirits of children from generations long passed. In particular, Toby, Linnet and Alexander, three siblings felled by the plague hundreds of years earlier, romp about the building and grounds. Mrs Oldknow, who is well aware of the phenomena, tells Tolly stories about the children and the history of the manor, including a gypsy curse that was placed on a creepy topiary of Noah, which is how the place (originally Green Knowe) got its name.
Lucy Boston was inspired to write these books--this is the first in a series of eight--after restoring the Manor House at Hemingford Grey, which dates to the year 1130. The restoration process discovered all kinds of hidden fireplaces and windows and other reminders of the house's ancient past. This apparently awakened in her a sense of history on a human scale and reminded her of how easily we ignore such things.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Jaina Solo on April 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This wonderful book escaped my notice as a child, and now I know why--the local library doesn't have a copy of this, or any of the other titles in the series! How awful!
I first found Green Knowe through a listing in the "Best Books for Children" guide. It's now my absolute favorite! I won't attempt a synopsis here--you can read the other reviews for that. But I did want to say it's absolutely MAGICAL! The story is a bit spooky, definitely old-fashioned, mysterious, and sweet, all at the same time! I have to say, as someone who reads a lot of "kiddy lit," I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop in this book. In a lesser novel, the sweet old grandmother character would've turned out to be secretly evil, or a witch, or some such nonsense. Happily, she's a magical sweet old lady, and the relationship between this ancient one and her little (great) grandson is really charming.
As a matter of fact, the real conflict only comes in just at the end (with a scary scene I won't spoil), so parents who are overly-concerned that their child not read *anything* containing conflict, "bad guys," or evil, be forwarned--all is not goodness and light here. Personally, I find a story about the struggle between good and evil (in the same category as C.S. Lewis' Narnia books) uplifting. The magical "ghost" aspect of it is also treated in a way that promotes good feeling, in my opinion (I know some parents do not appreciate *any* references to the paranormal, either--so I wanted to mention it).
But for the rest of us--what a FIND the Green Knowe books are! I've bought a copy for all my neices and nephews. They're off reading Harry Potter and the like. I've read HP, by the way, just to be able to make educated remarks about it.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first knew Green Knowe as a child, having discovered the series at my local bookmobile one summer in the middle sixties. Later I visited Lucy Boston and came to know the real Green Knowe and its charmed mistress. The odd truth is that while Green Knowe is referred to as a fantasty it's very much real: a haunted, enchanted, moated anachronism in the midst of the so-called "real" world. I give this series to any child that seems to have a glimmer of imagination. It should be reissued immediately: Lucy Boston can write circles around anyone scribbling for children today.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Chrijeff VINE VOICE on September 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
For mature and thoughtful children--and for adults, like all the best kids' lit--this British book, the first in a series, is a true gem. Eight-year-old Toseland Oldknow (cruelly called "Towser" or "Toto" by his schoolmates and new stepmother) is sent to the old manor house of Green Noah (the discrepancy in names is explained partway through) to stay with his great-grandmother, Linnet Oldknow (who apparently married her cousin, in case readers wonder), during the Christmas holidays. The first thing he learns is that he bears an ancient family name, which his Granny shortens to Tolly, by which we will know him henceforward. It soon becomes apparent to him that the ancient stone pile is full of secrets: he hears movement and childish laughter, sees things out of the corner of his eye, and finds a wooden Japanese mouse that's inclined to move and squeak under his pillow. Everything traces back to a 17th-century portrait of three Oldknow children--Toby (another Toseland), 14; Alexander, about 11; and Linnet, 6--with their mother and grandmother, of whom the latter is a dead ringer for his Granny. As Mrs. Oldknow tells stories of this trio, their pets, their adventures, and their seagoing father and older brother, they seem to come more and more to life, until Tolly actually finds himself encountering them--or rather their ghosts, since they died in the Great Plague. He also finds out that Mrs. Oldknow played with them too when she was his age. Then he accidentally learns of a curse placed on the Oldknows by a vengeful gypsy in the 19th century--and very nearly falls victim to it himself, only to be saved by his ghostly friends.Read more ›
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