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The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,021 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
When James and his family move to an ancient cottage in Oxfordshire, odd things start happening. Doors crash open, and strange signs appear, written in an archaic hand. James finds that the ghost is the spirit of Thomas Kempe.
Paperback, 243 pages
Published 2006 by Egmont (first published 1973)
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Northern Lights by Philip PullmanWatership Down by Richard AdamsThe Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThe Borrowers by Mary NortonThe Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
Carnegie Medal Winners
9th out of 78 books — 78 voters
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Middle Grade Ghost Stories
13th out of 117 books — 38 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,703)
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Beth Bonini
Feb 20, 2012 Beth Bonini rated it liked it
I really want a 3.5 rating.
For me, that would mean "this book is good at what it does but it has not completely engaged me."

This is a ghost story that plays it straight; in other words, it takes the idea of ghosts seriously.
When James and his family move into an old house, all sorts of strange disturbances plague them. James attributes their cause to the ghost of Thomas Kempe, who quickly reveals himself to the boy; everyone else, too rational for ghosts, believe that James is to blame for all o
Shonna Froebel
Nov 24, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This children's novel centers on a young boy, James and his family. They've recently moved into an old stone cottage in Oxfordshire, and the attic room has been fixed up for James' bedroom.
Besides James there is his sister Helen and their parents. Shortly after they moved in, a dog appeared and joined the family, and James named him Tim.
Strange things are happening around the house and James is getting the blame, but he isn't responsible. Gradually James begins to realize that there is a ghost
Dec 16, 2015 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a conventional ghost story because it is about a boy being haunted by a ghost. It is an unconventional ghost story because it is not scary, nor is it trying to be. The boy is never scared, just irritated and put out. He only really starts to get scared when something terrible nearly happens to someone else.

James Harrison is being haunted by the ghost of Thomas Kempe, a sorcerer who lived in his house hundreds of years before. Now as a ghost he wishes to reestablish himself as a sorcerer
Jul 19, 2015 C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite an irksome beginning I enjoyed this novel’s uniqueness, a protagonist who was eventually relatable, and a tour of archaic crypts. In a typical English village: the parish and school have run for eons, residents have traversed those generations, and so have the houses. Thus when workmen renovate an attic for the son of new homebuyers, they uncork a pest. Many would relish acquainting a ghost but this was an egocentric sorcerer.

A drawback to children’s literature, from whence much of my gh
Jul 02, 2014 Lynne rated it it was amazing
Annual re-read. First encountered at the age of ten, in primary school (in fact I still have Mrs. Halsall's own copy, sorry, Miss) and loved since. Lively's enduring ghost story tells of James Harrison being haunted by a bad-tempered C17th poltergeist whose distaste of the modern world manifests itself in vandalism and arson as well as writing angry notes.

Entertaining and engaging, although much of the language is probably, and sadly, beyond a lot of today's ten-year-olds - phlegmatic for examp
Mar 22, 2015 Ivan rated it really liked it
This was a great little page turner. Not at all scary - the ghost is more obnoxious and annoying then frightening. It's a strong story well told.
John Mccullough
Apr 23, 2015 John Mccullough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another "keeping-up-with-the-grandkids" book. And this is an "early" Penelope Lively book written for young adults but still enough good stuff for the older crowd, including me. The Harrisons move into an old house in a small Oxfordshire village. James, their son, draws an attic room that hasn't been lived in for years and years. Workmen renovating the room for him find a bottle hidden in the wall plaster and accidentally drop it. Oh, oh. Soon Master James is confronted by an angry polte ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Erin rated it did not like it
I'm 13 and we had to read this in my english class for school work. I honestly found the book very boring and slow, there was nothing that caught my attention or made me want to read more. My class of 20 students all agree with me. This book should be aimed towards a much younger audience of 7-9 years, though I can't see it ever entertaining me as I was reading Harry Potter at that age.
Jacqui Spink
Apr 06, 2012 Jacqui Spink rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading this and really enjoyed it - not at all scary, told in the quite matter of fact voice of a young boy - some lovely observations about family life, a little historical information and a nice resolution. Can't wait for Maddy to read it and have added some other Penelope Lively books to our library.
David Tendo
Aug 08, 2011 David Tendo rated it liked it
This was witty and a lot of fun, in the same vein as Roald Dahl.
Jan 04, 2015 Nick rated it it was amazing
I don't know how I missed this gem of a book, a wise and witty YA story of a boy who acquires a poltergeist friend (whom almost no one else can believe in). Naturally, the poltergeist breaks things and causes other minor mischief, which James, our hero, is blamed for. He struggles to find ways to contain the threat the poltergeist presents, and his child's view of the world and his problems is deftly and authentically rendered. Beautifully written, modest, and fine -- this is a gentle YA masterp ...more
Jan 15, 2015 Heidi rated it really liked it
This was my first book by Penelope Lively. I have one of her adult fiction books lined up to read soon. But something about this book pulled me to read it first. I bought three of her children's ghost stories. I am going to pass them on to my grand niece when she comes to visit me in Holland this coming summer. I am hoping she will enjoy as much as I did.

James is a young boy who has moved in on old cottage at the end of East End Lane which is the last house in the village of Ledsham. When his p
Jan 19, 2014 Fran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2014-books
I have such vivid memories of listening to this when it was serialised on Radio 5, back before Radio 5 was turned into the sports station. They used to serialise dramatised children's books, and this was one that they did (The Conjuror's Game is another that I remember). I recall being really quite terrified when listening to this; reading the book as an adult didn't frighten me at all (except (view spoiler)). Largely ...more
Oct 26, 2013 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
This book, which won the Carnegie Medal in 1973, seemed a good seasonal selection. (The author, who is now 80, has also won the Booker Prize for an adult novel.) As a ghost story, this book is not actually scary; rather , it is a thoughtful story that spotlights the flow of time. It brought to my mind the Green Knowe books of Lucy Boston. The young protagonist is not in a large manor house, but in a centuries-old cottage. Still, the pressure of past lives intruding on present ones is a similar f ...more
This is a boy's story of a haunting in an English cottage. James has a boy's outlook on life that is captured fairly well. The ghost of the title, Thomas Kempe, brings an 18th century perspective to a 20th century world, and it does not work well for either him or James. Lively makes this more than a straightforward ghost story as James becomes aware of the layers of life—in his garden, his school, and his neighborhood, and that is what makes the book special.
Andy Weston
Jan 01, 2014 Andy Weston rated it really liked it
Originally published in 1973 and recently reissued Penelope Lively's ghost story is aimed at children aged about 10 to 14. Despite that I took a quick read of the copy I had as a present for my nephew and was richly entertained.

Amongst her skills is to write a suitably haunting story for that age group. The young protagonist encounters many of the classic constituents of a good ghost story; he moves to an old gothic house, a graveyard, and buried treasure. What goes down best with this age group
Dec 10, 2014 Fiona rated it really liked it
Recommended to Fiona by: Folio Society
A great read and lots of fun! Like many high quality children's book it can also be fully enjoyed by adult readers. I truly commiserated with James as Thomas Kempe's ghost caused him one trouble after another. Well worth the read.
An agreeable fantasy tale of a young boy's struggle to cope with and finally appease a poltergeist who is living in his attic bedroom. The book won an award for children's fiction.
Sep 08, 2015 David added it
Penelope seems to have acquired a great dislike for me following my first tentative approaches several years ago. I don't know what I did to offend her so much.
Jul 10, 2014 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another wallow in childhood nostalgia - and no sign of the "Suck Fairy"! Penelope Lively is one of my favourite authors from childhood.
Mar 07, 2015 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Brilliant little book. The kind of book I would have adored as a ten year old--I devoured it in one sitting.
Sonia Gensler
Not really scary, but suspenseful and thoroughly endearing. Can't wait to read more from Lively!
Andrea Hickman Walker
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa O'Donovan
Feb 10, 2016 Melissa O'Donovan rated it liked it
Fear, due to a lack of control on behalf of the boy and the threat of violence.
Claire Stevens
Aug 19, 2015 Claire Stevens rated it it was amazing
This was my absolute favourite book of all time when I was nine. I'm older than dirt so this was a long time ago, but I still firmly believe that The Ghost Of Thomas Kemp is an all-time children's classic.

It's the story of a young boy who moves into an old cottage with his parents and sister and his bedroom is haunted by a poltergeist who keeps causing trouble for him.

Loads of people have never heard of this book and it's a real shame because it's such a good read. If you have a young person in
Jan 22, 2015 Maggie rated it it was amazing
Very believable characters, from the boy to Thos. K. I liked it.
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
A very enjoyable ghost story, well written, funny, not too scary. Winner of the Carnegie Medal in 1973. I hope modern children keep reading this classic.

Jun 23, 2015 Marut rated it it was amazing
a ghostly book with a person having a "personal ghost"
Jul 29, 2014 Pauline rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens
I did feel as if i were waiting for something to happen for the entire book.
Ahsan Rais
Mar 07, 2014 Ahsan Rais rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ahsan
is awsome!!
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Penelope Lively CBE (born March 17, 1933) is a prolific, popular and critically acclaimed author of fiction for both children and adults. She has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize, winning once for Moon Tiger in 1987.

Born in Cairo in 1933, she spent her early childhood in Egypt, before being sent to boarding school in England at the age of twelve. She read Modern History at St Anne
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