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Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story Paperback – April 21, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A ghost story par excellence in which a difficult seven-year-old is drawn into a frightening relationship with the ghost of a dead child." — Booklist, ALA, starred review
"Genuinely scary, complete with dark secrets from the past, unsettled graves, and a very real ghost." -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"An unusually scary, well-crafted ghost fantasy." -- Kirkus Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
This is a scary book. I wouldn't go near anything or anyone with the name "Helen" or "Harper" for years. This book also got me started reading the other books by Mary Downing Hahn. Every time I went to a library or bookstore, I immediately looked for new books by her.
I know my paperback is around here someplace (I remember the library hardcover's much nicer cover illustration...) but I haven't read it in a while. However, little bits of it or certain phrases from it pop up for me now and then... I think the book got so ingrained in me that I don't even notice it! Parts of it were so vivid and (fittingly) haunting - the link between the girls' names, the ruins of the house, the damage done to Molly and Michael's rooms, the creek that wound around through the forest and near the graveyard before finally leading to Harper Pond. Thinking about it still gives me chills.
Excellent... I can't recomend it enough.
Molly's mother has remarried, and the new family (including Molly's brother Michael and new step-sister, Heather) moves out to the countryside so that the artist parents can have studio space. Heather, however, is a horrible little brat that tries to make Molly and Michael's life a nightmare. Since she is younger than Molly or Michael, and still hasn't gotten over her mother's death, Molly and Michael always get blamed. Even when Heather starts claiming that she can see a ghost named Helen, who is coming to get Molly...
I have a very low fear tolerance, and still can't watch horror movies (Christine scared the living daylights out of me as a teenager, and I couldn't sleep for days), but I still love this book. I re-read it every year on Halloween for years, and I still enjoy reading it. Any child, teenager, or adult who likes ghost stories should definately pick this one up.
I liked the part when Heather got back the locket from Helen.But I didn't like that the only thing on the letter was don't forget me.But I wonder if Michael will beleve in Helen.
I think that the theme is love is strongest overall. In the book two charecters did horrible things.But they where forgiven by other charecters.So I think that love is strongest overall.
I think a lot of kids will find this story cathartic and moving and will benefit from its basic message, that parents (normal parents, I should stress) will love their children no matter what. I also think that it might help children to cope with feelings about death. One of the other reviewers criticized Molly's dark view of death, and while she had a point, I do think that the author realistically portrayed the fear and anguish that a child -- or anyone of any age, indeed -- would have when first having to confront mortality.
Now, the bad. Molly and Michael are realistically portrayed, but their parents and Heather are not. The message about a parent's unconditional love would be much more convincing if this particular mother and father had actually acted loving before the book's end. On the one hand, you have a man who spoils his daughter and is completely fixed on an obviously unrealistic view of her while at the same time refusing to do anything that would really help her, like send her to a counselor or try to facilitate a good relationship between her and her stepsiblings. We're supposed to believe that this man is normal and loving, but his tunnel vision makes him seem more like somebody with a personality disorder. On the other hand, we have a mother who is so obsessed with trying to keep her immature new husband happy that she has almost zero sympathy to spare for her children, even expecting her daughter to spend all of her time watching out for a seven-year-old who clearly hates her. Even factoring in the stress of the mother's situation, it is hard to believe that a mother who is obviously loved by her children and is said to have once lived with them in great happiness would start behaving with so much insensitivity and irresponsibility.
I realize that adult actions often appear selfish and incomprehensible to children even when the adults are in the right, but this is extreme. Never once do either of the adults show any consideration or understanding of their children. They really bought a house out in the country without so much as mentioning it till it was a done deal? This supposedly loving mother really tricked her kids into thinking they were moving to a town rather than an isolated rural area? She really completely brushed off their unhappiness over losing everything familiar and enjoyable to them? I could go on.
Heather was shown, until the end, as a hackneyed evil child lifted straight from horror movies. I kept on expecting her to knife someone. I think the reader could use a few more hints that she is traumatized, not evil.
This is a decent book and children, who are frequently not discerning readers, may not notice that this is an extreme, almost unmitigatedly negative portrayal of a mother and father. I do think they would benefit more from the book's good message if the adults showed at least occasional glimmers of interest in anything but themselves.
A better ghost story for this age group, with some similar themes, is "Mirror of Danger" by English author Pamela Sykes. Not only is the book stylistically excellent and imaginative with a wholly satisfying, believable ending, it has a couple of the best parent characters I've ever encountered. Solidly real, with defined, interesting personalities. Not perfect, but caring. Giving their children some independence and responsibility without taking a hands-off approach. And it works! Total adult absence and indifference to their children is not necessary in order to have a story that is about the experience of children, told from their viewpoint. And the children's own feelings are realistically portrayed as complex, not the black and white you get in this book. Unfortunately, "Mirror of Danger" is out of print.
A word about this audio version: The actress who reads the story is a good reader and does a good job of doing different voices so that you know who's speaking, but she accentuates the "demon child" portrayal of Heather by giving her such an insipid, cloying, nasty tone.