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Sonia Craddock

Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic, 1990. 192pp, paper, $3.95
ISBN 0-590-73662-0. CIP

Grades 4 to 7/Ages 9 to 12
Reviewed by Ray Doiron.

Volume 19 Number 1
1991 January

Eleven-year-old Jackie Bain and her family have finally settled into a new life in Nelson, B.C. Jackie is a shy and lonely girl who has difficulty making friends. Her parents, who are artists, and her older twin brothers thrive in their new home, while Jackie withdraws, desperate for a new friend.

While playing "Murder in the Dark", Jackie discovers a box of old greeting cards hidden in a window box of their Victorian home. The cards are ad­dressed to Ellen Burton and dated 1890 to 1905. That night Jackie is awakened by the spirit of Ellen Burton, a Victorian girl who wants her cards back. Al­though the girls do not get along at first, their friendship grows as each learns more about the other's life. They explore the house at night and create all sorts of mischief while Jackie's family sleeps. Ellen's final appearance is as a sixteen-year-old preparing to get married. She leaves the cards in Jackie's care.

While mourning the loss of her "friend," Jackie joins her school choir. She performs Christmas carols in a local nursing home and learns of one resident named Ellen about to celebrate her one hundredth birthday. Christmas Day provides the background for the climax as Jackie learns the secret of the cards and meets Ellen Voykin, the great-grandaughter of Ellen Burton.

The early part of the narrative moves slowly to establish very stereotypical roles for Jackie's family. The predictable use of Hallowe'en as the night the spirit first appears and Christmas as the day when dreams come true limits the originality of this story. While the pre-teen audience could enjoy the fun Jackie has with the spirit and may identify with the longing for a good friend, they will also find this book long and at times didactic.

The cover illustration focuses the appeal of this book on the spirit of Ellen and suggests this book belongs in the horror genre. This book will not have a wide appeal and I cannot recommend it.

Ray Doiron, Glen Stewart Elementary School, Southport, P.E.I.
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