Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston

This is a book I remember loving as a child and so was pleased to re-visit it with Billy.

The main character is Tolly, a seven year old boy who is sent to stay with his great-grandmother for the Christmas holidays. Tolly is a lonely and unhappy child. His mother has died and his father and step-mother live in Burma. The time period isn't specified, but I think it's just after WWII. He goes to boarding school and until now has been spending the school holidays at the school.

Under the loving and nurturing care of his great-grandmother, Mrs Oldknow,  Tolly begins to come out of his shell. She lives in a very old, isolated house called Green Knowe. The house has been in her family for hundreds of years. It is filled with things from the past, in fact it is difficult to separate the past from the present. Tolly feels at home there, and realises that he is part of the history of the house, just as his great-grandmother is.

He senses the presence of children who lived there many years ago. Mrs Oldknow tells him that their names are Toby, Alexander and Linnet and that they had lived in the house during the Civil War. Toby longs to see them and make friends with them, and as he grows more confident in himself he begins to catch glimpses of them.

Green Knowe is a world apart. History and magic and folklore combine with Tolly's imagination to create a very special place. As I was reading it to Billy I wondered how he would cope with the ghost story aspect of it (I half expected to have to put it aside for a couple of years). But he was fine with it. I think because Tolly and Mrs Oldknow weren't scared, and the children themselves are a friendly, benign presence.

I hadn't realised that it's one of a series of books, I'm going to get the rest of them to read to him. This was my choice for the bedtime book. Billy had next choice and I braced myself for more Horrid Henry, but he chose The Secret Garden, which was a pleasant surprise.


  1. 'The Children of Green Knowe' followed by 'The Secret Garden' - my goodness but Billy is getting some quality reading there. I love the Lucy M Boston books. Indeed we have a Bear in the house called Toseland Bear precisely because I love the books so much. (He is never shortened to Tolly, by the way. I don't know why this is because he isn't the sort of Bear who stands on his dignity, quite the opposite in fact. He is simply a Toseland and not a Tolly. And yes, before you ask, we are all completely mad in this house, although we prefer the word eccentric.) My favourite of the Green Knowe books if 'Stranger at Green Knowe'. I think it's the third. It asks some very searching questions about the way in which we treat 'others'.

  2. Annie - Lucy M Boston's house is open to the public, I'd love to visit it. You should take Toseland Bear there. We've nothing named after a character in a book, though Billy's goldfish are named Barry and Paul after The Chuckle Brothers. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books with him. There are so many books I want to get through with him before he thinks he's too old to be read to.

  3. I love children's literature, but I'm not familiar with this one. I hear you on Horrid Henry, my girls devoured them when they were little. Cleverly written, but a bit samey after a while!

  4. Nicola - I can recommend this one a lot. As for Horrid Henry! Billy brought a book home from school the other day called Dirty Bertie - it's a sort of sub-Horrid Henry. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse!