Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Behind the Attic Wall” as Want to Read:
Behind the Attic Wall
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Behind the Attic Wall

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  4,752 Ratings  ·  365 Reviews
They were watching...and waiting

At twelve, Maggie had been thrown out of more boarding schools than she cared to remember. "Impossible to handle," they said -- nasty, mean, disobedient, rebellious, thieving -- anything they could say to explain why she must be removed from the school.

Maggie was thin and pale, with shabby clothes and stringy hair, when she arrived at her ne
Hardcover, 315 pages
Published September 1st 1983 by Thomas Y. Crowell/HarperCollins Publishers (first published September 1st 1982)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Behind the Attic Wall, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Okay so this book has been the hardest book for me to ever remember. I read this book in 7th grade so I must have been about 12 or 13. That time in my life was a very difficult time for me family wise. I was a very depressed kid with lots of issues. I had to write a book report in 7th grade and this book totally caught my attention. A book about a girl that has to go live with her 2 aunt's and 1 uncle. She is completely isolated until she meets the dolls upstairs and begins a friendship, her onl ...more
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A refreshing coming-of-age story with a distinctly spooky twist.

Also, it would make for a FANRASTIC movie!!

I can see the movie trailer now:

The camera shows the front of a car where an elderly man in a fedora-like hat (Uncle Morris) and a teenage girl of about 12 or 13 (Maggie) are seated. The elderly man has a pleasant air about him. The girl's face is twisted into a scowl.

Narrator: "Over the years, Maggie has been thrown out of more boarding schools than she can count..."

Zoom in on the girl.

Lisa Vegan
This story was fun and touching from the start. I knew some of what was coming and for a while enjoyed the fantasy angle less than the realistic part. But I ended up liking it all and have much appreciation for how it ended up for all of the characters. I was both delighted and frustrated by the ending. A part of me wanted more but mostly I loved its open-endedness. I’ve decided on my own how it ended up in the long run for the main character. Maggie is a memorable character and I believe very g ...more
Gwenn Wright
Apr 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I have literally been trying to remember the name of this book for decades. It was a beautiful, haunting story that stuck with me. I am seriously overjoyed to have found it!
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-by-kate
[spoiler alert] Sylvia Cassedy's "Behind the Attic Wall," which you would find in the children's books section directed to "older readers," has a number of elements that will be familiar to devotees of classics like "Cindarella," "The Secret Garden," and "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." The heroine, an orphan named Maggie, comes to live with her two humorless aunts in an old mansion that used to be a school, now shrouded in mysterious tragedy. Yet though Maggie is a "charity case," she i ...more
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Highly recommended to everyone
This is one of those books if asked to choose a handful to take to a desert island or to pass on to grand children or to rescue from a fire if there were no chance of getting another copy, this would be one I would choose without hesitation.

Maggie is an orphan and is sent to live with some Aunts who live in an old school house, the founders of the school were relatives of theirs. The Aunts are not warm or understanding towards Maggie and do not see that Maggie is emotionally traumatised by her
If you have ever felt unloved, unlovable, and/or unable to love, this is your book. Unforgettable. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again Hilary!
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, esp. tween girls
I still remember when I picked out this book in Waldenbooks when I was in the sixth grade. Ah...memories. It is such a beautiful book about an outcast girl who finds friendship and hope when she discovers magical dolls in her aunts' attic. (It is on the cover of the book, so I guess I'm not giving anything away.) The ending is great, and I cry every time. I highly recommend this to anyone.
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's face it: This book is terrifying. I couldn't stop rereading it as a kid, but seriously... What the absolute hell?

There are living porcelain dolls living in the attic? Does everyone in the family who dies become a doll? Or just the ones who die violently? Also, the story is a flashback, leaving you with the impression that the narrator has either been adopted or is in a foster home now, which is probably better all around, but there's no indication (that I recall) of whether this is a perm
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book about 50 times in elementary school. I loved ghost stories and mystery books so much, thats all I ever read. I found this in my school library in a solid dark green hardback cover (I thought it was so mysterious) and then later my mom ordered the paperback for my birthday.

Behind the Attic Wall is magical and sad, about being accepted and needed. Maggie's loneliness and anger made me want to befriend her and go with her through the secret passage way to visit the dolls everytime.
The Rusty Key
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Becca Worthington

Recommended for: Girls, Ages 8 and up.

One Word Summary: Haunting.

In children’s literature, there are plenty of touching books about abandoned orphans who are unfailingly candy-sweet despite the great tribulations they have undergone at such a young, tender age. Maggie is not one of those orphans.

At age twelve, having bounced from home to home for years, having been kicked out of an endless string of boarding schools for being “impossible to handle”—
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scary
I adored this book, and it's still good, on both the orphan-books and ghost-books fronts.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the books that each reader will bring his or her own perceptions to, *even more than most.*
I have hidden all the significant spoilers below, but if you've decided you do want to read the book soonish, you probably want to do so before reading my review, so you can have as few preconceptions as possible.

A GR friend uses the word "fun" and yet I found it so very sad. Another totally believes the magic; I assumed that the girl was (mildly and temporarily) mentally ill. I ha
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that, though evidently geared for a younger audience, is one that many ages could read and still enjoy. Sylvia Cassedy weaves a beautiful tale of mystery in this story, one that keeps you thinking until the very last page. And let me just say that the ending is genius! Even through my second read of the story, I was hooked until the last page, eager to understand the mystery that surrounds 12 year old Maggie, the main character. I recommend that everyone read this book, you won't ...more
Heather Liver
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ages 9+
Shelves: children
Conceivably my favorite book from childhood. Maggie is a young orphan who finds herself parked with her great-aunts for lack of any closer relations. After being moved around with great frequency, she develops an acidic attitude towards the world, which mellows as she finds new friends behind the attic wall, and learns to deal with the loss of her parents. The prose is fluid, and Maggie is quite believable, as is her great-uncle Morris. Touching and whimsical, yet accurrate and grounded.
Daphne Austin
This book left me with an ache in my gut. A wonderful ache, like the feeling I get when I think of how I haven't hugged my dad since I was a little kid. How it would feel so different to do it now; awkward and embarrassing. Or how my biological dad, who I can't remember ever hugging, is gone. It's that feeling of not knowing something intimately but knowing of it and only wanting it more as time passes. It hurts, but something in that hurt feels like a gift, like viewing the miniature sculptures ...more
Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I finished it. That might be about all I can say that's very good about this book. I really didn't like it at all. I wanted too...and goodness knows I normally really love a good juvie lit hit but drove me nuts. There were all these completely tired plot elements (the heroine is a sickly, ugly orphan who is sent to live with her crazy, uncaring maiden aunts after bouncing around various orphanages...etc) then there were all kinds of horribly jarring historical inaccuracies. Like t ...more
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This all came back to me when I read it out loud to my six-year-old daughter. Despite the almost gothic premise (an orphan gets sent to live in a former boarding school with her spinster aunts), the book manages to capture so many universal truths about girlhood. I haven't seen the interior life of a young girl illustrated quite so vividly before: Maggie lives her life inside her head, communicating with "The Backwoods Girls" or imagining--in great detail, with dialogue--how her classmates will ...more
Nov 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, a good story, but it was a little slow for me. It took more than half the book to finally have something happen. I understand the backstory to explain Maggie, who she is, her behavior, her background, etc., but it seemed to drag. I probably would have enjoyed this story much more if I had read it when I was a kid.
Melinda Worfolk
This was one of my favourite books when I was a kid. I re-read it many times, though in retrospect I'm not sure why I loved it so much. It's sort of a melancholy book, but maybe that was part of the appeal.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book as a kid. My mom sent me home with a bunch of my old books recently, and I just took this out and reread it today. Fantastic.
Rebecca McNutt
I loved this book when I was in junior high school; Maggie is a character who any kid can relate to and her eerie experiences in the big old house are definitely unforgettable.
Danielle Palmer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruth E. R.
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well for me the book ended at page 167. I'd had enough. This one didn't really grab me in the beginning nor did it get better. There is so much introspection in the first one third of the book and unhappiness and even an underlying anger it left me cold. Maybe you have to be a girl to appreciate it??? I found the Prologue(s)really turned me off rather than draw me in. The characters were flat and the main character was not only one I couldn't relate to I didn't care to relate to. I didn't feel s ...more
This was not at all what I expected. Behind the Attic Wall is about a troubled girl named Maggie who has since her parents died when she was very young been shuffled from boarding school to boarding school. She doesn't last long anywhere because Maggie is angry and at this point in her life deliberately sabotages any goodwill towards her. Her new home is with a pair of dotty great aunts in a former girls boarding school. They're severe and humorless and there is a lot of talk of deportment and n ...more
A loner protagonist and a wonderfully creepy setting made me quite fond of this book a child, though I didn't entirely understand it. I recently saw it on the shelves at my local library and decided to give it another read, to see if increased age and life experience might help me to see whatever it was I
missed the first time around.

I definitely have picked up on more nuances of the story, but parts of it remain as incomprehensible as ever. The writing is skilled and engaging, and the characte
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girls ages 8-12
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
I read this book as a kid and loved it! I'm anxious to see what I think of it as an adult.

Update: I totally loved reading this book! I was so into it that I had a hard time putting it down. I can totally see why I liked this as a child/teen. I think that I was able to relate to the main character, even though I wasn't an orphan and my life wasn't nearly as difficult as Maggie's, I was very lonely, and I had a lot of social anxieties. Most of the time I only had my books and my imagination to kee
Tippy Jackson
I'm not quite sure how to rate this one because I read it when I was younger and absolutely adored it, but when I re-read it as an adult, I couldn't get into it or relate to it at all like I could when I was a kid. I want to read it again because I think it will be different for me yet again. I swear, when I was younger I thought I would name a future child Timothy J after one of the dolls in the book. It totally hit my creepy bone. I suppose I'll give it one more read and then decide on a final ...more
Sep 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out to seem like a fun read. A little girl orphaned has been sent to live with her great aunt Lillian and Harriet after being sent away from yet another boarding school. She is thin and pale as well as not social-able. Her Uncle Morris seems to have more understanding of her than she knows. She hears voices from behind the walls. Eventually she discovers a secret room in the attic where two dolls and a china dog are alive. I do not want to say much more to spoil the story in th ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Christina's Ghost
  • Stonewords: A Ghost Story
  • When the Dolls Woke
  • The Doll in the Garden
  • The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt (Johnny Dixon, #2)
  • The Fairy Rebel
  • The Ghost Belonged to Me (Blossom Culp, #1)
  • Among the Dolls
  • Ghost Cat
  • The Court of Stone Children
  • The Girl with the Silver Eyes
  • The Ghost Wore Gray (Nina Tanleven, #2)
  • Time Windows
  • Nighty-Nightmare (Bunnicula, #4)
  • A Candle in Her Room
  • What The Witch Left
An American author of picture books, poetry, and fiction, the Brooklyn-born creative-writing teacher began her career with a few minor picture books, such as Little Chameleon (1966), but is best known today for her poetry and novels. Roomrimes (1987) and the posthumously published Zoomrimes: Poems about Things That Go (1993) were praised for their perceptiveness, humor, and unusual variety of poet ...more
More about Sylvia Cassedy...
“I love the name Maggie, he went on, and she glanced up at him suspiciously-nobody loved the name Maggie-but his face was serious. It makes your teeth feel good to say it. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. It feels like eating peanuts. Try it, and he paused, waiting for her to recite her name aloud.

She turned away, but she did try it anyway, to herself, and she felt a surprising tingle around her upper molars.”
More quotes…