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The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,773 ratings  ·  125 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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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Bionic Jean
The Ghost Of Thomas Kempe was written in 1973 by Penelope Lively, an English author of both children’s and adult’s books. This one can certainly be enjoyed by adults, although it is aimed at readers of around nine and over, and the protagonist is a young boy.

The Harrison family have recently arrived in the village of Ledsham, to live in a traditional stone cottage called “East End Cottage”. They are having some renovations done, to open up one of the children’s bedrooms. James, whose bedroom it
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Humorous ghost story fans of all ages
Strictly speaking, my rating for this light and enjoyable read would be three and a half stars, if Goodreads allowed fractional stars. But I rounded up, in tribute to Lively's skillful writing and the unexpected depth of thought in the ending.

The fact that this book was picked (on my suggestion) as a "Terror Tribe Buddy Read" in the Reading for Pleasure group on Goodreads is misleading. Yes, the supernatural element here is quite real. And the premise could allow for a horrific use of the supern
Jul 02, 2014 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 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
James has recently moved to an old house. Soon mysterious writting appears and James starts to uncover the past. In parts this book has a lovely sense of hunour and the main character is reminiscent of Just William.
Such a complex, comic ghost story in which a truculent and bullish spirit from the 17th century is accidentally unleashed upon the lives of the Harrison family - notably, young James. Revisiting this again as an adult allowed me to enjoy all the subtle connecting threads which exist between Kempe and James and I would love to consider the parallels there. Again, Lively's capturing of place, community and the historical threads are masterfully done. It is interesting to note that, having spent so ...more
3 Stars.
The boy was annoying.
Ellie L
A fantastic ghost story that follows the relentless haunting of James Harrison. Originally strange and mysterious, happenings in the family home quickly become troublesome and inescapable, as the reader follows the protagonist’s conundrum of how to be rid of the malevolent spirit.
In terms of character, Thomas Kempe was quite the enigma. His transition from being bold and humorous to hostile and unrestrained completely ricocheted, and I found that the lack of balance in his actions created such
Shonna Froebel
Nov 24, 2012 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
Beth Bonini
Feb 20, 2012 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
Jane Scholey
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of my childhood faves. Love a good, old fashioned ghost story!
Amber Scaife
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James and his family move into an old cottage, in which James gets the attic for his bedroom. It's been closed off for years, and when the workers open it up to renovate, they unwittingly let loose the spirit of a sorcerer, Thomas Kemp, from the 1660s. The spirit is moody and demanding, and tries to get James to help him re-establish his business in the village. When James resists, Thomas gets testy and starts breaking things, for which James gets blamed by his parents. He finds a local carpente ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book from beginning to end!
Mar 19, 2015 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. ...more
Nick Swarbrick
Just finished a reread after the longest of gaps; I see I must have read it when it first came out. James, troubled and a troublemaker, is latched onto by the bullying ghost of Thomas Kempe, a seventeen century apothecary/sorcerer in a small town near Oxford - the identification with Eynsham is pretty inescapable. Like a good stalker horror, the ghost becomes more and more insistent, and becomes a destructive presence for the whole community.
I enjoyed it, of course: a good build up, clever humo
I loved this delightful, charming book about a boy and his ghost. I bought it as a gift but could not stop reading once I had started. Lively's prose is, well, lively (sorry), and the book is shot through with generosity of spirit, wit, humour, and warmth. This was light without being trite. It's how a children's book should be. It also makes me want to seek out more of Lively's writing. ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was one of my favourite penelope lively books as a child, & it holds up; it has the warm, mellow, slightly dated cosiness, it has the history & memory & things out-of-time or between-times theme, it has the wholesome, fresh air mischief. it's just a v lovely little book that i've read & had read to me a v silly number of times ! ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Nice, quick read. I enjoyed the story, particularly the thoughts and reactions of 10-year-old James. But the ending was anti-climatic.
Mar 11, 2015 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
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-ya
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
Oct 26, 2013 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
Pam Baddeley
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children, fantasy
Interesting tale from the 1970s of a boy, James, who moves into an old cottage where the attic has been converted into a bedroom for him, and in the process workmen have disturbed the bottle prison of a troubled spirit from the 17th century, Thomas Kempe. Soon Kempe begins impinging on James' life, insisting that the boy be his apprentice and publicise Kempe's many sorcerous talents for finding lost objects and providing services such as alchemy. Kempe doesn't 'get' modern life and his response ...more
Apr 04, 2013 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. ...more
Jacqui Spink
Apr 06, 2012 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. ...more
Natalie (Nat)
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So good!
I read this in one sitting, I bought it from world of books because I always used to see it in the library but never read it.
I recommend this to anyone who loves an eerie ghost tale or anyone who’s into the supernatural or Halloween.
It’s based in the 1970s and has a very nostalgic vibe where the story is set.
I definitely recommend as a quick, relaxing but eerie read.
David Tendo
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This was witty and a lot of fun, in the same vein as Roald Dahl.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
brilliant would read and reccommend to people
Shawn Tipton
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a pleasure to once again read this classic blast from the past novel that I first encountered in the mid-1990s in middle school (UK). Penelope Lively does such a fantastic job in bringing the Oxfordshire town of Ledsham and the Characters therein alive.

Brief summary follows -

The Harrisons have just moved into East End Cottage on the edge of Ledsham in the early 1970s, things are going well for the family and our protagonist James, aged 10 in particular, yet the book waits for no one and t
Juliet Mike
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
In summary, James encounters a poltergeist. The ghost of Thomas Kempe is initially mischievous, but mischief escalates to vandalism and then to arson. James is under suspicion but his family and friends don’t believe in ghosts so he cannot explain what is happening.

There is a coming of age element to the story. James, imaginative and resourceful, has to find his way through the problem without his parents support. First he seeks information (I love the depiction of the public library- and it is
Maria Harper
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Was I the only year five student who was genuinely scared sh**less by this book? I have rated it as middle as I possibly can because I don’t know f it’s a good or bad thing that I’m not 27 and still the idea of it brings flooding back the memories of my 10 year old self lying in bed at night after Miss Caleys literacy class convinced I was Gona experience the same things James did.
I have read as many reviews as I am here and no one else seems at all phased by it! (Even 13 year old reviewers!) m
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though a very easy read, I found this book very witty, with a fantasy yet sensible plot and characters that seem to jump right out of the pages at you!

James Harrison has moved to the quiet, happy village of Ledsham, to a little house called East End Cottage. He lives there with his mother, father, taken-in dog Tim, and sister Helen—who we grow to like in some respects, but not in many others. But soon, ordinary, plain life takes a turn for itself, and James is whisked into a fantasy, funny, yet
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Penelope Lively is the author of many prize-winning novels and short-story collections for both adults and children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize: once in 1977 for her first novel, The Road to Lichfield, and again in 1984 for According to Mark. She later won the 1987 Booker Prize for her highly acclaimed novel Moon Tiger.

Her other books include Going Back; Judgement Day; Nex

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