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Crandalls' Castle

Crandalls' Castle

3.7 10
by Betty Ren Wright

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Beware! At first, Charli is excited about the Crandall family’s newest endeavor—fixing up the town’s old mansion and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. She even volunteers to help. Then strange things begin to happen. Charli hears someone singing—but no one is there. She sees the shadow of a rocking cradle—but there is no cradle. And then


Beware! At first, Charli is excited about the Crandall family’s newest endeavor—fixing up the town’s old mansion and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. She even volunteers to help. Then strange things begin to happen. Charli hears someone singing—but no one is there. She sees the shadow of a rocking cradle—but there is no cradle. And then she hears a baby crying, and crying. . . . Something terrible happened in the old house many years ago. And it may happen again, unless Charli can figure out how to stop the past from repeating itself.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Charlene's uncle buys the old town mansion to fix it up and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast inn. Most of the family does not have the enthusiasm that the uncle has for the project and Charli feels it is haunted. At the same time, fourteen-year-old Sophia, whose parents died several years ago, comes to live with the Crandalls (Charli's cousins). Her gift of premonition got her into trouble at previous foster homes. They didn't believe she might see something before it happened, but felt she had caused the event herself. Sophia is determined to fit in with the Crandalls and keeps her skill a secret. She instantly gets along with the two four-year-old boys and the baby. Meanwhile, Charli is struggling with a new stepfather plus she is jealous of Sophia's new role in her cousin's house. Charli witnesses strange signs like a shadow of a crib rocking without a crib, a baby crying, and a quilt that shows up in different rooms, but no one else believes the house is haunted until Sophia uses her gift to save the baby before the ghost does him harm. The book alternates between each of the girl's point of view and accurately depicts early adolescents wanting to be a part of the family but also exerting their independence. 2003, Holiday House, Rose
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-In alternating chapters, two girls narrate this suspenseful novel. Charli, 12, is adjusting to life with her new stepfather when her impulsive Uncle Will Crandall announces that he has purchased a rundown mansion, rumored to be haunted, that he plans to turn into a bed-and-breakfast. On her visit, Charli sees the shadow of a rocking cradle and senses a disturbing and frightening presence. Orphaned Sophia, 14, has recently come to live with Charli's aunt and uncle and has a deep secret-she sometimes "knows things" before they happen-and she is convinced that Uncle Will's plans are dangerous. The girls' prickly relationship as they help clean the Castle, and the dread each feels toward the house, provides tension to the story. Both are sure that no one will believe them if they mention their fears. A biography of one of the mansion's former residents leads to the ghost's identity and this fact, along with Sophia's prescience, helps the girls when they must rescue Charli's youngest cousin from near death. This novel will satisfy readers looking for a scary story. The adjustment of both girls to their new living situations adds reality to the plot and gives the novel more substance than many in the genre.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
For seven years-since her mother's death-Sophia has been shuffled around. Now she finds herself amid a clamorous brood of distant relations, the Crandalls. Even the house across the street contains cousins-in particular Charli. Though the Crandalls are welcoming, Sophia senses, with her ability to see into the future, that Will Crandall means trouble. He reveals his plan to buy and renovate the old Castle, crumbling and reputedly haunted, and turn it into a bed and breakfast. Charli explores the Castle and sees the terrorizing shadow of a cradle, followed later by swirling apparitions, and a screaming infant. The ghost story is engrossing enough, but there are also two intriguing subplots. Charli struggles to come to terms with her mother's new marriage, while Sophia lives in constant fear of being relocated yet again. The satisfying ending indicates that when it comes to family, each member is integral. This mistress of spooky once again delivers a thought-provoking thriller. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Holiday House, Inc.
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Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Crandalls' Castle

By Betty Ren Wright

Holiday House

Copyright © 2003 Betty Ren Wright
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1346-8



Charli Belland sat on the front steps and watched her Crandall cousins run happily wild around her. The four-year-old twins, Gene and Terry, were building a fort, using boxes and crates they'd dragged from the Belland garage. As soon as they completed a wall, they took turns riding their tricycles into it at full speed to batter it down. Two-year-old Mickey hurled toys out of his playpen in every direction.

"I cleaned up the whole yard this morning," Charli said grimly. "I wanted it to look nice when Mom and Ray come home."

Sixteen-year-old Dan, the only Crandall not in motion, laughed. "Why'd you bother?" he asked. "You knew we were all coming over for the big welcome home this afternoon. Aunt Rona knows what we're like, and Ray might as well get used to us. Every time he looks across the street at our yard he'll see a bigger mess than this."

Charli nodded. She considered getting up to collect the toys, but she didn't. Waiting like this, not knowing what was going to happen next, was pleasant. She felt as if her whole life was about to change.

"If you think this is bad, look out," Dan added. "I just found out we're getting a new kid in our family."

Charli looked up at him, startled.

"Not another baby," Dan told her with a grin. "It's a girl from Madison. She's related to someone my mom knows, and she has nowhere else to go. So ..."

Charli understood. The girl in Madison had nowhere else to go, so of course Aunt Lilly had invited her to come and stay with the Crandalls. What difference would one more make?

"How old is she?"

"Fourteen," Dan said. "And that's all I've heard, so don't ask." He grinned. "You know my mother. Say yes and ask questions later — that's her motto."

He broke off as a familiar car turned onto Lincoln Street and glided to a stop in front of Charli's house. At the same moment, the screen door burst open and Uncle Will and Aunt Lilly rushed out onto the porch.

"Here they come!" Uncle Will shouted unnecessarily. "Welcome home, newlyweds!"

Charli stood up and started toward the car. She wanted to be cool, but her heart was banging in her chest. Uncle Will galloped ahead of her, and as soon as her mother and Ray Franz, her new stepfather, stepped from the car, he grabbed Charli's shoulders and swung her around to stand between them.

"Smile!" he shouted, raising his camera. "Let's see the happy family!"

The camera clicked, and then everyone hugged and shook hands, as if the honeymoon had lasted a lot longer than two days. A print glided out of the camera, and they crowded around to examine it. Charli saw that her mother and Ray were smiling happily, while she stared straight ahead, somber as an owl, through her round glasses.

"Charlene looks as if she's getting ready to run," Ray commented. "Is that the way it is, Charli?"

She glanced up at him, pretty sure he was teasing, but afraid he wasn't. "No," she said. "I'm staying." The whole family laughed, as if she'd said something clever instead of totally dumb.

Aunt Lilly threw one arm around Charli's mother and the other around Ray. "Come on inside your house," she ordered. "Dan, bring the suitcases. Charli and I spent all morning decorating the wedding cake."

"Cake!" Gene and Terry stampeded to the kitchen where the cake waited in all its glory on the table. When everyone had admired the rosebuds and plastic lovebirds, Rona and Ray together cut generous pieces and passed them out.

The littlest Crandalls took their paper plates and scattered around the backyard. Charli settled with Dan on the porch steps. He was four years older than she was and sometimes treated her as if she were a baby, but now he looked solemn, in spite of the frosting mustache that decorated his upper lip.

"Ray seems like an okay guy," he said. "I guess he's a good basketball coach — everybody says Mount Pleasant is lucky to get him. You like him, huh?"

"He's all right," Charli said. After all, she and her mom had been doing fine, just the two of them. She'd felt prickles of envy occasionally, when her friends at school mentioned their fathers, but she'd become used to having one parent. Her own father had died when she was three, and that had been that. At least, that was that until Ray came along.

She remembered the first evening he came to the house to take her mother out on a date. He had arrived in Mount Pleasant just a few days earlier to teach math and coach high school basketball. The morning he came to town to find a place to live and get settled, Rona Belland had served him coffee and pancakes at the Blue Water Café, where she was the manager. That was how they met.

"Do you like him?" her mother had asked the morning after the date.

"He's nothing like Uncle Will," Charli had said cautiously. Will Crandall, her mother's older brother, was the only man she knew really well. He had been an important part of her life ever since her father's death.

"No," her mother agreed. "Ray's nothing like our Will. They're both good and generous, but Ray's a very different kind of person. For one thing he's steady as a rock. I hope you'll like him."

For the rest of that day Charli had felt uneasy and a little scared, but excited, too. Ray came over many evenings after that, filling a place in their lives that she hadn't realized was empty. Sometimes she'd wished he would disappear, but at the same time she'd practiced saying "my dad" when no one was around to hear.

"Your cake's slipping off the plate," Dan pointed out now. "Are you going to be Charli Belland or Charli Franz?"

"Who knows?" It would be nice if they all had the same last name, but she had been Charli Belland for a lot of years. She felt like Charli Belland.

The screen door burst open and Uncle Will bounded out onto the porch. He was like a puppy, Charli thought — if you could imagine a tall, skinny, gray-haired puppy. When he threw himself down onto the steps beside them and stretched out his long legs, he seemed younger than Dan.

"Listen up, kids," he whispered, pretending to check for eavesdroppers. "I've got a surprise! I don't want to tell you until everything's settled, but when I do you're going to be thrilled. Something terrific's coming off — great for us and maybe for Rona, too, Charli."

Charli put down her plate, remembering some of Uncle Will's other surprises. He taught history at Mount Pleasant High, and one summer, the day after school closed, he'd bought a secondhand boat, "guaranteed to give us all a perfect vacation." The boat had sunk like a rock with the whole family on board. Even though it was moored in shallow water when it went down, the shock had been terrible. The next summer he'd invited the family to come out to Eagle Hill to watch his first hang-gliding lesson. He'd broken his leg when he landed.

The worst surprise — Charli groaned, remembering — was the summer he'd painted the Bellands' house the incredibly bright blue it was now, while Charli and her mother were away on a camping trip.

"I wanted to surprise you," he told them proudly, when they returned. "Turned out a little brighter than I expected, but you'll get used to it."

"What kind of surprise is it, Dad?" Dan broke the silence. "Give us a clue."

"No can do," Uncle Will said gleefully. "You might just try to talk me out of it." He scooped up a ball lying at the foot of the steps and jumped to his feet. "Catch!" he bellowed, tossing it toward the twins. He dived to retrieve it as it came bouncing back.

Charli looked at Dan, speechless.

"Oh, quit worrying," her cousin muttered. "A month from now he'll probably have forgotten all about the surprise, whatever it is."

The screen door flapped behind them, and Charli looked over her shoulder to see her brand-new stepfather. He was watching Uncle Will, who shouted and pretended to tackle first one twin, then the other. Ray winked at Charli and went back into the kitchen, but not before she'd seen his expression. He had been eyeing Uncle Will as if he were an alien from another planet.

"Ray thinks we're not his kind of people," she muttered. "He thinks we're strange."

"Well, we're not," Dan retorted. "Ray's been around here long enough to know what our family is like. Besides, if Dad's going to do something weird again, it won't affect you. That's our problem."

"Ours, too. We're all one family," Charli said stubbornly. She looked up at the sky, half-expecting to see a black trouble-cloud sail over the house. "Uncle Will mentioned my mom," she reminded Dan. "So we're mixed up in the surprise, and that means Ray will be, too. He won't like it."

She already knew what her stepfather thought of at least one of Uncle Will's surprises. The day before the wedding he had mentioned that he hoped there would be time to paint the house a sensible color before school started this fall.



I should have given you a name a long time ago. After all, you've been my best friend ever since I moved in with my great-grandmother. It wasn't only that she never talked; it was as if she lived in this circle of quiet and no one else existed. I started writing to you that very first night.

Right now I imagine you sitting up in bed, same as I am, only you're in your own room in your own house, and you know everyone else who lives there and you love them all. You might even be wearing a Save the Animals T-shirt like mine — not that it matters. The important thing is, you listen. I can tell you stuff, like why I'm not in my great-grandmother's apartment anymore, and why I don't expect to be in this place long either.

I'll start with the cab ride in Madison this morning, because that's when I knew for sure my life was about to change again. It was my first ride in a cab, and I bet it was the first for my great-grandmother, too. Not that she said so, of course. All the way to the hospital she stared out the window, her wrinkled face as still as stone.

When I first met her, a year and a half ago, her face was pink and puckered. Now the puckers are like deep cuts carved into gray skin. I know she's going to die soon. I bet she knows it, too. I want to feel bad, because after all she's the only relative I have left, but I can't. Sorry about that. She's as much a stranger today as she was when I moved in.

We were pulling up in front of St. Joseph's Hospital when she finally spoke. "Your great-grandfather had a niece in Mount Pleasant. Nice girl. Maybe you can stay with her for a while."

Naturally I had about a million questions I wanted to ask, but I just said okay because she wasn't going to tell me anything else. It was as if she'd peered out for a moment from that weird, silent place where she lives, and she'd noticed me next to her, and she'd said what she had to say. Period.

I was beginning to feel pretty weird myself. I knew the feeling because I've had it before, quite a few times. One minute I'm safe — well, semi-safe — and the next I'm floating in space. If I was an astronaut, that would be the moment when the line that attached me to my ship slipped away. Suddenly there's no up, no down, no connections. That's exactly how I felt then, sitting in the cab with my poor dying great-grandmother.

When you lose your connection, everything seems far away. A pointy-faced doctor examined my great-grandmother in the emergency room and scolded her for waiting so long to come to the hospital. After he left there were two nurses, a young one with red hair who smiled a lot and an older one who told me to follow her down a hall.

"I understand your grandmother is your guardian," she said. "Our social worker will help you sort things out. She's very efficient."

Whenever I hear "social worker" I start to worry. This one — her name tag said Rita — was nice enough, but she asked the same old questions other social workers had asked a hundred times.

"Your great-grandmother is very sick," she said, finally. "We'll try to help her, but you'll need someplace to stay until she gets better. I can make some arrangements, or you can go back to — where was it, Sacramento?"

I told her about the niece in Mount Pleasant, but she looked doubtful. "We'll talk to your great-grandmother," she said, and I thought, Lots of luck!

We went back down the hall to the same elevator that had taken my great-grandmother away. When we stepped out onto the seventh floor, the smell of disinfectant made me want to throw up. I glanced into some rooms, but the faces that looked back at me were so sad that I turned away fast.

My great-grandmother was in a room by herself, lying on a high narrow bed. Her eyes were closed, and her bony little hands were folded on the tan blanket. Her eyes flicked open when we came in.

I stood near the door and waited while Rita asked questions about the niece in Mount Pleasant. I couldn't hear her answers, but I don't think she knew much to tell. Suddenly her eyes snapped shut again, and she began to snore.

Rita stood looking at her as if she wasn't sure what to do next. "Do you want to kiss her good-bye?" she asked.

I said I didn't think so. We had never kissed.

As we walked back to the elevator, Rita kept sighing and reading her notes. "I suppose this will be okay," she said doubtfully. "Your great-grandmother's your guardian, after all. If this woman in Mount Pleasant is willing ..." She sighed some more and then seemed to make up her mind. "Well, it's a good thing school's out, isn't it?" she said in a chirpy voice. "This can be like a vacation for you, Sophia. You can write to your great-grandmother and tell her your adventures."

I groaned, not out loud. She had no idea how crazy that was. My great-grandmother hadn't even known I existed until the Social Services people in Sacramento called her. They had just discovered there was a member of the Weyer family still alive in Madison, Wisconsin. They told her about me, how I'd been in a whole string of foster homes, and wouldn't she just love to have me come to Madison?

I was pretty excited, finding I actually had a relative, but the whole thing was a mistake. My great-grandmother should have said no when she had the chance. I guess it didn't matter to her whether I came or not. She was like a sleepwalker, cleaning her apartment, cooking rice with canned vegetables, crocheting shawls that were never used. When I came home from school each afternoon, she always seemed a little surprised, as if she'd forgotten I lived with her.

Rita waited for me to say something chirpy-cheery back at her, but I couldn't think of a thing. "My great-grandma can't read English," I told her finally. "Anyway, she's going to die. She won't expect a letter."

There it was, the first mistake of the day. Rita's face turned pink, and she walked faster. Back in her office, she got Lilly Crandall's telephone number from information, and sure enough, Lilly Crandall was okay with my coming, just the way my great-grandmother had been a year and a half ago. I wondered if Lilly would turn out to be another sleepwalker.

We drove to my great-grandmother's apartment on Johnson Avenue, and Rita cleaned out the refrigerator while I packed my things. I put jeans and tops and underwear and socks in one suitcase, and my books and CDs in the other. I hadn't played the CDs since I left Sacramento, but I didn't want to leave them behind.

When I came out of the bedroom, Rita was at the kitchen window. She looked worried.

"We're moving pretty fast on this, Sophia," she said. "Isn't there someone in Madison you want to call to tell them where you'll be?"

"There's nobody," I said. "When I moved here, a caseworker came for a while, but she hasn't been around for a long time. My great-grandmother told her to mind her own business."

"What about your friends at school?"

I just shrugged. When you worry all the time about saying the wrong thing, it's hard to make friends.

Rita rolled her eyes and sighed again. "Okay, okay," she said. "Anyway, Mrs. Crandall sounds very pleasant, and I guess you can take care of yourself. Meeting new people is fun if you have the right attitude."

I could tell she didn't think I had it.

I wondered about that while she drove us to the bus station. Jim and Judy Stengel were my first foster parents after my mom died. Maybe I did have the right attitude then, because I stayed with them for three years. Then, when I was ten, I knew — all of a sudden — that they were going to go away and leave me. The day Jim finally said he'd been transferred to London, I wasn't even surprised. Judy hugged me and cried when I told her I'd known, but she didn't believe me.


Excerpted from Crandalls' Castle by Betty Ren Wright. Copyright © 2003 Betty Ren Wright. Excerpted by permission of Holiday House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Betty Ren Wright (1927–2013) was the distinguished author of numerous books for young readers. Her thrillers, including The Dollhouse Murders, Christina’s Ghost, and Crandall’s Castle, have each won numerous state awards. In addition to her middle-grade mysteries, Wright has also penned more than thirty-five picture books for children, including The Blizzard, which appeared on state-award master lists and was named a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year. In 2006 she was honored as a Notable Wisconsin Children’s Author by the Wisconsin Library Association. 

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3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crandalls Castle by Betty Ren Wright was a very absorbing book.The main characters are Charli and Sophia. Sophia is a girl of many families. She is a foster child taken in by her great grandmother. In the beginning of the book Sophia's great grandma is in the hospital and says that its time and that the closest link to the family is the Crandalls. Then comes Charli. Charli is in the Crandall family. She is kinda the dark cloud of the family the one who doesn't really care about anything. Both of the girls are very different until the plan Will Crandall has. The plot is the girls find a very big secret in the haunted house. The plan Will Crandall was is to make a bed and breakfast out of the haunted house on the hill.But before the plan starts the girls want to explore the Castle. when they ask to go their parents say no. They disobey the order and sneak out at night and explore the castle.The setting is Madison, Wisconsin ans the time is now.This books theme is mystery.I liked this story because it left me a lot of cliffhangers, and was fast-paced toward the end.I can connect the sneaking out to staying up late.Also when I read Inkdeath with the same sneaking thing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think the book was good. I wanna read it again! I hope my mom will buy it for me. I got from my school's library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is really good with sophia and charli being so different become such good friends
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very enjoyable to read and the description is so real it gets kind of creepy. The suspense was so great I wanted to rush to the supernatural parts. Charli is such a relatable and likeable charectar and the time in which the book takes place. I also really love the uncles charectar but mostly the way he makes the story flow and sort of completes the backround. Thank You
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would say that this book is very challening to keep up with.I mean that they go back in time and go in the present alot back and forth.but it is an enjoyable book to read. I loved to sit down and read it over and over agian.It din't really hold my atention that good. But it is very detalling. To me.I love this book but don't really care for it to. So I will tell you that I Loved the book! I loved how they try to put back the house to be hotel but a kid sees a ghost shadow rocking a babys craddle. But I won't tell you all the detail! You have to read it yourself! I't is a faboulas BOOK!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a good book just that all the drama was toward the end. i also thought the ending should have been a little better. i still enjoyed reading the book and i think it is a good book to read but it wasnt the best but it was good. it really didn''t make me want to look when ever the door squeaked or anything. i liked it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was really not that scary and I didn't like the writing style that much. And I hated the ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great novel to read before sleeping. It's a page-turner that you'll read under the bed covers until your flashlight runs out. This story will have you looking over your shoulder every time you hear something creak! A must read!