#Believathon: Children’s Classic

First Published in 1954
This edition published by faber & faber in 2006
Illustrations by Peter Boston

I read this for the Classic Children’s Story prompt. I had never read the whole story before, but I had read an extract with my class for a comprehension lesson and it intrigued me, so I decided to read it for this prompt.

Seven year-old Toseland is going to live with his maternal Great Grandmother Oldknow who lives in a castle in Green Noah, formerly known as Green Knowe. His mother has died and his father and stepmother are in Burma, leaving him rather unhappily in a boarding school until he is taken in by Mrs Oldknow.

I love the fact that Toseland immediately feels comfortable with his Great Grandmother and at home in Green Noah from the start, even though he has never met her before. It is not long before he begins to hear whispering and laughter, yet he can see no-one. Then, items start to move of their own accord. This does not frighten him in the least, perhaps because he has had a rather lonely existence in his boarding school, and is desperate to have friends, even if they are not living! It also helps that his Great Grandmother is aware of the existence of the castle’s ghostly family members, and tells him wonderful stories of these children who had occupied the castle over 300 years previously: Toby, Alexander and Linnet.

At first the children tease Toseland (Tolly), and keep themselves hidden but eventually he is able to see them and communicate with them. I adored that Tolly is able to develop friendships with his long deceased relatives without any of the fear and apprehension often associated with ghost stories. They give him the companionship he so desperately craves as there is a real sense that Tolly was a rather sad, lonely boy before coming to Green Noah.

The natural world plays such an important role in the story. The depiction of both the flooded and snowbound landscapes is beautifully evocative. Woodland birds and animals play a pivotal role in the story as they link Tolly and his Great Grandmother with the castle’s past inhabitants. The children and Mrs Oldknow are clearly animal lovers, and many real and ghostly creatures are welcome in Tolly’s room.

As Christmas arrives, the sense of family and celebration deepens as it is clear that Tolly and his Great Grandmother delight in each other’s company, giving them both a real sense of contentment as they work together to find the perfect present for their relatives who, although no longer living, are not ready to pass from Green Knowe.

The story of how Green Noah got its name through a curse is beautifully woven into the story and gives a sense of danger as Tolly finds himself caught up in this curse, a curse that is waiting to be broken …

This is such a wonderfully gentle and heart-warming story of the beautiful relationship between a Great Grandmother and her Great Grandson cemented in their bond and love for their long deceased young relatives.

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