Behind the Attic Wall

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Overview

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 new home. "It was a mistake to bring her here," said Maggie's great-aunts, ...

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Overview

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 new home. "It was a mistake to bring her here," said Maggie's great-aunts, whose huge stone house looked like another boarding school — or a prison. But they took her in anyway. After all, aside from Uncle Morris, they were Maggie's only living relatives.

But from behind the closet door in the great and gloomy house, Maggie hears the faint whisperings, the beckoning voices. And in the forbidding house of her ancestors, Maggie finds magic...the kind that lets her, for the first time, love and be loved.

In the bleak, forbidding house of her great-aunts, neglected twelve-year-old orphan Maggie hears ghostly voices and finds magic that awakens in her the capacity to love and be loved.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Intricately woven. . . at once satire, fantasy and tragedy. . .
New Yorker
Unforgettable. . . A beautifully written, very touching story.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380698431
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/1985
  • Series: Avon Camelot Bks.
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Sylvia Cassedy graduated from Brooklyn College in New York, and studied in the Department of Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In addition to Behind the Attic Wall, Ms. Cassedy wrote several fiction books for children, including Lucie Babbidge's House.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The man waiting at the station when she first stepped off the train was the tallest person she had ever seen. His round black hat moved like a planet above the crowd, and the silver knob of his walking stick hovered just below it like a moon as he made his way toward her on the platform.

He looked her full in the face. "I'm looking for Margaret Ann Turner," he said. "I don't suppose you would have any information on where I might find her?"

No. Yes. How were you supposed to answer a question like that? "That's me," but he was already swinging her canvas duffel bag onto his shoulder, and she realized that he had known who she was all along. She wondered what description he had been given. Brown beret, brown coat, brown socks, ugly face? Bony legs, untied shoes, sandpaper knees, rotten temper? He was examining her carefully now. "You're quite certain that you are Margaret Ann Turner," he asked, "and not someone else with the same name?"

Another unanswerable question.

"It's Maggie," she said.

"Maggie!" he exclaimed. "Perfect!"

Perfect for me is what he means. Drab girl, drab name.

"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 anyway, to herself, and she felt a surprising tingle around her upper molars. Maybe likeeating peanuts, maybe not; she couldn't really remember what peanuts tasted like.

"I am your uncle Morris," he said. "There is nothing remarkable about the name Morris at all, although I am told there is a chair by that name and also a dance. I can't imagine why anyone looking around for a name to give his chair would finally settle on Morris, can you?"

Maggie said nothing, and stood still, her eyes on the ground, while he continued to scrutinize her. "North Wellington Academy for Girls," he read from the emblem on her beret. "Is that really a girls' school you have on your head?" he asked. "If it is, its architecture seems strange. For one thing, there are no windows."

She would make it clear to him that she didn't enjoy being teased. "It's a hat," she said icily. She removed it from her head and, rolling it into a tube, slid it into her coat pocket.

"Ah," Uncle Morris replied. "A hat. Imagine having a girls' school in a hat."

Maggie made no reply and followed him as he made his way across the station platform to the lot where his car was parked. He laid her duffel bag carefully in the backseat and held the door open for her. As soon as the car began to move, she started to pick out letters of the alphabet from storefronts and billboards, getting quickly from A to I, but it was a while before she found a J, and soon the town was behind them, the signs grew sparser and sparser, and she gave up before reaching K.

"And now, Maggie," Uncle Morris said suddenly, "you must tell me something about yourself."

People were always saying that: "Tell me about yourself." There was nothing to tell. She had been in eight -- no, nine -- places to live and had been thrown out of all of them. Usually for "poor adjustment," which meant kicking people or stealing. Now she was going to stay with some aunts -- great-aunts, actually -- whose names she didn't even know and who lived in a place she had never heard of. Uncle Morris turned his face to her, waiting for her answer.

"I'm twelve," she finally said.

"Twelve!" he exclaimed. "How very nice," and he returned his eyes to the road. "Would that be inches or dollars?"

She glanced up at him. "What?"

"Twelve inches or twelve dollars?"

"Years," she answered.

"Twelve years! As old as that!" He paused for a moment. "How do you keep your hair from going gray?" and he turned to her again, expecting a reply, but this time she didn't answer.

"What else?" he asked.

She looked out the window. "What else what?"

"What else is there to tell about yourself? What do you wonder about? Do you ever wonder, for example, if everything that looks green to you is really everybody else's red?"

Maggie turned from the window and looked at him. She had wondered that once. What if the grass and the trees and the woolen skirt of last year's school uniform, all the things that were called green, really looked red or blue to everybody else? It was a scary idea, crazy really, and it surprised her to hear someone else -- an adult, too -- give voice to it.

"Have you ever wondered that?" he asked again.

"No," she answered, and she moved her knees aside when his hand came down on the knob of the gearshift rising from the floor.

They were in open country now, and Maggie narrowed her eyes until they were nearly shut, making the road ahead jump back and forth and shimmer like a fish.

"Do you keep a diary?" Uncle Morris asked suddenly.

She turned to look at him. How did he know about that? She had kept a diary once. When she was at Mrs. Malloy's. Four schools ago. Five. A black leather diary. Except it wasn't real leather and it wasn't a real diary. And it wasn't hers. It was an appointment book, and she had taken it from the headmistress's desk. Many of the pages had already been filled in, but there were some that remained empty, and she had used those to write on.

Behind the Attic Wall. Copyright © by Sylvia Cassedy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2007

    one of my favorite stories of all time!

    I read this book in third grade, and it turned me into a reader...I've been looking for this book for forever and I missed it! I'm going to read it to my sisters right after I go and buy it...It is seriously one of the best books, most haunting children's books you will ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2006

    One of my new favorite books!

    I had to pick a book in my Library class and I choose this one. I started to read it in class and lost track of time until the bell rung. 31 hours and some minutes later, I finished! I was so confused at the prologue but it helped me understand about what will happen,when they(you'll have to read to find out)talked I laughed alot,when her Uncle left I was so sad,and I was also really sad when the end came. My favorite thing about this book is how it is written it's funny,sad,suspenseful,and mysterious all at the same time! I wish all books were like this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2006

    My favorite book ever!

    I read this book when my age had only one digit in it. Now, at 21, I've read this book a million times over. It's beautiful, haunting, poignant, and has a lot deeper meaning than intended. Very much underrated!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2005

    One of the best books

    This is one of the best books that I read in seventh grade. It really is a truly outstanding book that, once you get thrown into the plot, you just can't put it down. Even I had a hard time letting go.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2004

    Talking dolls and Schizophrenia

    This is an interesting story that features a young girl who is at first very depressing, but then gradually becomes less withdrawn. I kept wanting her to wake up and realize that people were willing to help her. For example, early in the book when she is given a gift, she tosses it on the floor, which was a bit too ungrateful for me. Although the long descriptions of her imaginary friends became a bit tiresome, and the Prologue left me more confused than engrossed, overall this is a great children¿s story (readers in age group 12+), with well-developed characters and excellent descriptions. As a reader who enjoys a well-told story, regardless of the genre and age group, I found this story both intriguing and expertly crafted. I recommend this book for adults and children, although the story content and character motivation would probably appeal to young women more than the guys. Also, be advised that the subject matter includes talking dolls and a heroine who may be schizophrenic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2003

    good book ... but.....

    i did this book for my monthly book project... expenting some mystery book type. but it ends up not the kind of book i like.at first i read the prologe of each part, confused. After i read the end everything made sence. I think this book is a little too wordy, and some parts you dont really need to be put in since it doesnt help the story to grow

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2003

    Best Story Ever!

    I love this book. I read it once in third grade, I hade checked it out at the library, and I've wanted to buy it ever since!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2003

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I READ BEHIND THE ATTIC WALL FOR A BOOK REPORT IN 5TH GRADE AND MY FRIEND WAS READING AN EASIER BOOK AND I FINISHED FIRST. I WAS THINKING, HOW COME I WAS READING A HARDER BOOK AND SHE DIDNT FINISH BEFORE ME? I WAS GUESSING THAT I WAS SO INTO THE BOOK I READ ABOUT 3 CHAPTERS A NIGHT EVEN THOUGH MY MOM TOLD ME TO GO TO SLEEP. I WOULD READ UNDER MY COVERS. I WOULD RECOMEND THIS BOOK TO ANYONE OVER 9.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2002

    The Grrrrreatest book I have eva read!

    I was in about 5th grade the first time i read this book, and I'm still in love with it! Once you get started reading it, you'll never want to put it down or want it to end. This book is a really awesome book caz i laughed, I EVEN CRIED at the end!!!! It may sound corney but it's in-a-strange-way a real tear jerker. Well if u wanna know more I highly recomend you get a copy of this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2001

    WONDERFUL

    This was a great book. It might be the best book I have ever read and probaly am going to read. Before this book I didnt enjoy reading that much, but now because of reading this book I've found that there are good and even great books out there to read. The story is very creative and well written I have finished reading the book but I cant stop thinking about it- I am very strongley saying read this book!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2001

    Behind the Attic Wall, Now out in the open!

    Maggie is an amazing little girl just likes to look for adventurte, which happens to get her in trouble. Uncle Morris is soooo funny, but I can see how Maggie feels about him, since I'm Maggie's age and have an uncle like that. I loved this book and have read it many more times, than just once. I think anyone who loves to read( since it is long, but I loved it anyway)should get your hands on a copy. I wish I had more thumbs than two, cause it is a lot better than two thumbs up!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2001

    An Example of how Much Love Can Change a Person

    This is one of the best books I have ever read! It was so unexpected and oddly satisfying at the end! I wanted the story to go on! I hope she never makes a sequel because it would spoil the magic of the first book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2001

    The best book I ever read!

    This is the best book I ever read! I practically cried when it was over, for 1 because it was just too good to stop reading, and for 2,the ending was unexpected, and I had to make up a different ending, because I wanted the book to go on!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2001

    Great Book

    Maggie is an impolite girl who hates everything. I think it is great that Maggie learns how to love and to be loved. She at first did not like dolls. Now she loves dolls. She is now such a pleasant little girl.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2001

    Great example of how love can change someone

    A great book that can change any life. I personly think it is fasinating how Maggie learns to love someone with a little love herself, now she is loving and polite. Like a little girl should be!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2001

    The Power of Love

    The theme of this book -- that children need to be loved in order to know how to love others -- is examined through an often sad but absorbing story about Maggie, a young orphan. I found myself absorbed in the tale!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2000

    Interesting plot

    How did the author manage to tell such a fine story with such a wretched main character? I did not feel connected to Maggie at all, and I didn't think she was a good person or a likable character. However, the story was well told, mysterious and fascinating. I recommend this book for the fine story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2000

    Magical Book of Discovery

    This was one of my favorite books when I was younger. I still love to read it, even today. Maggie's journey of self-discovery led me through a scary and enchanting place. I was completely fascinated by this book and the way it was written. I loved Uncle Morris and his strange ways. He was always a delight to encounter. This book really touched me. I'm sure it will always be one of my favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2000

    'Behind the Attic Wall' still a favorite

    At age 21, this book was still as fascinating to me as it was when I first read it at age 11. I was completely absorbed by Cassedy's descriptive writing and outstanding characters. I loved the part about the pink rubber buttons on the suspender things! I could picture them so vividly! I remember bawling my eyes out reading the entire last couple chapters...I couldn't believe Uncle Morris knew all along! Perfect ending, SAD but perfect!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2000

    To this day, it is my favorite, and I read a lot

    I read this book when I was nine years old. It had a fantastical, fairy tale feeling about it, that makes it a hard-to-forget read. I still have wonderful dreams about all of the characters.

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