Reviews for Old Willis Place
Booklist Reviews 2004 September #1
Gr. 4-7. Hahn is a master at stretching the suspense, and that's what she does here. Diana and her little brother, Georgie, watch as the caretaker and his daughter move into a trailer near the decaying Willis mansion. The children have seen caretakers come and go, but Diana, who has no friends, is tempted by the sight of a girl her own age. Hahn unfurls the story slowly, but because of the subtitle, readers will know there's a ghost. They'll assume it's wicked Miss Willis, who died in the house, but soon they'll start wondering about Diana and Georgie, too. Where are their parents? What are these arcane rules they seem to live by? To Hahn's credit, children won't be entirely sure of the answers until the very end. Some of the action is told through Lissa's diary. Most of the time this works, but it's too bad the climax is revealed this way as the device puts a barrier between readers and the action. Kids will love this anyway: it's just the right mix of chilling and thrilling. ((Reviewed September 1, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Spring
It's difficult for Diana and her brother to make friends--for a reason that will become clear to readers long before Lissa, who has just moved into the trailer on the grounds of the Willis place, gets a clue. Although this ghost story requires some contrivances to keep itself going, Hahn gets the girls' relationship just right, and the spooky atmosphere is expertly evoked. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 September #1
Diana and Georgie have been living wild, depending only on each other. They remain hidden, never leaving the grounds and never entering the derelict house. Longing for more companionship, Diana decides to befriend the new caretaker's lonely daughter. But the friendship leads to complications and danger. When Lissa leads Diana into the old house, she unwittingly unleashes the spirit of the old woman who lived and died there. With carefully incorporated clues, the reader comes to the realization that the frightening old woman is not the only ghost. Diana and Georgie are ghosts of children who died a terrible death in that house long ago. Diana is the primary narrator, with Lissa's diary entries providing alternate views of the events. The young characters, both human and spirits, are sympathetic and believable. There is even a moral here: that love and forgiveness can lead to everlasting peace. Spooky, but with an underlying sweetness. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2005 January
Diana and her little brother, Georgie, are ghosts living in the woods surrounding old Miss Lilian's place. They cannot go beyond the gate at the end of the lane, they are not to enter the crumbling mansion, and they can't let anyone see them. Then Lissa moves into the trailer out back. Her father is the new caretaker and Diana decides having a new friend is more important than the rules. The main voice is Diana's, but readers know Lissa's side of the story through her diary entries, which Diana steals and reads. In the end, with Lissa's help, the children confront nasty Miss Lilian's ghost. Their remains are found in the basement room where Miss Lilian locked them, to teach them a lesson. Unfortunately, Miss Lilian had a stroke before she could release them, and their spirits are reunited with their parents. Even nasty Miss Lilian's spirit is forgiven and can move on. Author Mary Downing Hahn still has quite a way with characters. These children and even the ghosts all seem real and the reader comes to care about them. The horror here is not bloody or gory, but nonetheless will make readers shiver with sympathy and suspense. Give this to your Betty Ren Wright fans or those looking for a more realistic feel to their ghost stories. Recommended. Sherry Hoy, Library Media Specialist, Tuscarora Jr. High, Mifflintown, Pennsylvania © 2005 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 December
Gr 5-8-Diana and her younger brother, Georgie, have been living on the grounds of the old Willis place for oh, so long. They've seen caretakers come and go, but the new one seems different. Mr. Morrison has a daughter, Lissa, who seems to be about Diana's age. Both girls are lonely and long for a friend but Georgie reminds Diana that it's "against the rules" to have friends; that they must remain out of sight. But Lissa remains intriguing to the children. She not only has a bicycle, but she also has many books and a stuffed animal that reminds Georgie of one he once had. They share even more; Lissa, too, has suffered a huge loss. Masterfully constructed, the story shows readers the same events from the perspectives of both girls; Diana narrates, and Lissa writes in her diary. The combination builds tension, raises questions, and allows characters-and the mysteries that surround them-to unfold gradually. The story is taut, spooky, and fast-paced with amazingly credible, memorable characters. More than just a ghost story, this riveting novel is a mystery and a story of friendship and of redemption. After this tale, readers are not likely to think of ghosts in the same way.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2005 February
Readers looking for a mystery intertwined with a ghost story will enjoy this tale of a decaying mansion, a wicked former owner, ghosts, and a series of creepy, unexplained events. The cantankerous and unreasonable owner of the mansion, Miss Willis, died in the parlor ten years ago. The mansion has been empty since then except for various caretakers on the grounds. Diana and her brother, Georgie, live on the property of the crumbling mansion and spend their time spying on the caretakers. Because of some unexplained rules, the siblings mysteriously must always remain hidden and are fearful of their puzzling secret being revealed. Diana is tempted to break the rules when a new caretaker and his daughter, Lissa, arrive. Diana and Georgie sneak into the caretaker's home and yard and "borrow" books, toys, and other items that interest them. Lissa tries to explain to her father that some of her personal items are missing, but they cannot find a reasonable explanation. Eventually Lissa glimpses Diana and accepts an invitation to meet her on the veranda of the mansion. As their friendship evolves, Lissa is surprised that Diana and her brother are only familiar with movies, songs, and books that were popular in the 1930s. She attributes their odd behavior to strict fundamentalist parents. Lissa is fascinated with the mansion and recruits a frightened, reluctant Diana to break into the house with her. The consequence of their actions releases a vindictive ghost, solves a mysterious disappearance, and unites a family Hahn uses suspense, action, superstition, and mystery to keep readers interested. There is a delicate message of guilt, forgiveness, loyalty, and friendship, and although the story is predictable, it has a satisfying ending. Readers who enjoyed Hahn's Doll in the Garden (Clarion, 1989) or Kathryn Reiss's Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story (Harcourt, 2004/VOYA review this issue) will find this tale appealing.-Eileen Kuhl 3Q 4P M Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.