How did I manage to grow up without reading The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston? The only good thing I can say about this omission from childhood reading is I got to discover and appreciate this gem as an adult. The bad thing: I cannot help but wonder what is the best age to read this book. On the one hand, a simple story; but it is sophisticated and I think if a child reads it "too young" they will miss half the wonder of this tale.
The Plot: Toseland (Tolly) is seven and on his way to visit a relative he has never met before, his Great Grandmother Oldknow who lives in an old house named Green Knowe and called Green Noah. Tolly has been living in a boarding school; his father is in Burma with his stepmother. Granny knows just how to entertain a small, lonely boy: animals, stories, adventure, freedom. And then Tolly discovers the other children in the house: Toby (another Toseland), Alexander and Linnet; Granny knows them also, and her stories include tales of these three children. That Toby, Alexander and Linnet died during the Great Plague in the 17th century doesn't bother either Tolly or Granny.
The Good: Are the children of Green Knowe real? Are they ghosts? Or are they imaginations, indulged by a Granny who sees that Tolly needs a sense of connection that Green Knowe and its children give him? This is not so much a book about ghosts as a book about the imagination of a child.
Also good are the stories that Granny tells of the history of the house: some funny, some scary, all that help give Tolly a sense of family and of belonging.
I was delighted to find out that the house is real: Lucy Boston's own home, called The Manor, Hemingford Grey. It was built in the 1130s and you can visit it by appointment.