Review Blog

Apr 09 2008

Miss McAllister's Ghost by Elizabeth Fensham

cover image

UQP, 2008
When Wilf comes home scared out of his wits, talking about a ghost, his siblings decide to investigate. Hardly missed at home, it is an opportunity to go off together. What they find, an elderly woman living by herself in a forgotten part of the neighbourhood, untouched by the twentieth century, is at first, unsettling, but as the children get to know her, they become involved in the routines of Miss McAllister's life.

The children take on the tasks around her house, gardening, chopping wood, cleaning, and cooking, all the while asking questions and learning about life in the past. When Michael spots a face at the window of the stable, then they investigate further and so are  more completely drawn into her world, protective and helpful.

This is a most unusual read, partly because it does not go down the path expected when reading about a ghost story, and because it gives so much detail about how people lived a century ago, it seems like a social history book, and I found myself less interested in the story, although I am sure middle school readers will not be so easily strayed from the path. The religious touches too, make it different, and they underline the dissimilarity between the life Miss McAllister led as a child, and that of the protagonists. I enjoyed the read immensely and it will be a winner in schools, but I found the lack of resolution of the cruelty of the children's father a small niggle.
Fran Knight

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