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The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn
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** spoiler alert ** Diana and her brother Georgie have haunted the grounds of the Willis house for almost as long as they can remember. Their parents used to work for old Mrs. Willis until the bad thing happened. When they left, Diana and Georgie had to remain behind and follow certain rules – they were to remain hidden, and they were not to leave the property. Mrs. Willis eventually passed away, and her house has been looked after for many years, now, by a series of caretakers – each taking less care than the last. Diana and Georgie “borrow” whatever they want from the caretakers and take great pleasure in playing practical jokes on them. Then, one day, new caretakers arrive – a novelist and his daughter, Lissa – and suddenly what Diana wants more than anything is for Lissa to be her friend.

Diana’s friendship with Lissa changes everything, however. It breaks the rules, it angers Georgie, and worst of all, it releases the ghost of Mrs. Willis from its imprisonment in the parlor of the old house. Her ghost is free to chase after Diana and Georgie, and they’re not sure what horrible fate it has planned for them.

In the beginning of the story, it’s not entirely clear whether Diana and Georgie know that they’re ghosts. And they’re not like most ghosts you’ve heard of either – frail and insubstantial. Diana and Georgie are full-bodied, fleshed ghosts – almost exactly like their young selves the day that they died. There are clues, however, throughout the book that should help readers guess what they are. Mrs. Willis was a slightly crazy, cantankerous old woman when she was alive, and she was cruel to the children – just as they were cruel to her. On the fateful day that the “bad thing” happened, Mrs. Willis chased the children into the basement and locked them in a room. She told them she would let them out when they were ready to apologize, but she promptly went upstairs and had a stroke. By the time she returned to health, the children were dead. She never meant to do them that kind of harm, so she never mentions what had become of them.

While Mrs. Willis remains a mostly evil presence throughout the book, she does manage (in the last chapter) to acquire some depth. She apologizes to the children and they’re even able to forgive her. Their resolution enables them all to follow Diana and Georgie’s parents into the afterworld – presumably, heaven.

This was a quick, haunting read. It’s spooky enough to entertain 9-12 year olds – some of the parts about Mrs. Willis are truly scary. The “nice” resolution, though, is quite reassuring and should allay any residual fears about ghosts and evil old Mrs. Willis.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 2, 2008 – Finished Reading
March 13, 2009 – Shelved
March 13, 2009 – Shelved as: ghosts-and-spirits
March 13, 2009 – Shelved as: suspense-thriller
March 13, 2009 – Shelved as: mystery
March 13, 2009 – Shelved as: juvenile-fiction
March 13, 2009 – Shelved as: 2008-caudill-nominees
March 13, 2009 – Shelved as: spooky
October 27, 2011 – Shelved as: borrowed-from-the-library

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Kayla great summarization! i couldn't done it better than myself. once again good job.

message 2: by Shonna (new) - added it

Shonna Louve gr8

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