The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story

The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story

4.4 287
by Mary Downing Hahn

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When Ashley discovers a turn-of-the-century doll it is just the first of several puzzling events that lead her through the hedge and into a twilight past where she meets Louise, an ailing child whose beloved doll has mysteriously disappeared.See more details below


When Ashley discovers a turn-of-the-century doll it is just the first of several puzzling events that lead her through the hedge and into a twilight past where she meets Louise, an ailing child whose beloved doll has mysteriously disappeared.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hahn's captivating fantasy tells of two friends who unearth a mysterious doll in a tangled, neglected rose garden. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-- A young girl helps her cantankerous elderly landlord to resolve a childhood act that caused the woman lifelong guilt. Ashley follows a white cat back in time and meets Louisa, a girl who is dying and who longs for her beloved doll--a doll that Ashley and her friend Kristi have found buried in Miss Cooper's garden. In the end Ashley, Kristi, and Miss Cooper visit Louisa; the woman is able to make am mends with her childhood friend, and Ashley begins to accept her father's death. Hahn's portrayal of crotchety Miss Cooper is expertly drawn, giving vivid insight into why she acts and lives as she does. Ashley, her widowed mother, and Kristi are also fully realized characters. When Hahn sticks to her story, it moves along at a steady, scary clip. However, when she lapses into lengthy descriptions of flowers, birds, and landscape, she slows the pace of the story rather than creates the intended atmosphere. Ashley's first-person narrative often gets bogged down in a flowery adult voice, particularly in the descriptions: ``As still as the cherub behind me, I watched the leaves sway in the breeze. Sunlight and shadow mottled the ground, and the weeds whispered to themselves, lulling me like distant voices of children at play.'' Still, it's an imaginative ghost story, fairly predictable, but with a completely satisfying ending. --Trev Jones, ``School Library Journal''
From the Publisher
"Thoughtful, entertaining fare for the middle grades." —Kirkus Reviews with Pointers

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Cat Hater

The day we moved into Monkton Mills,, I made an enemy of our new landlady. My mother and I were renting the top floor of what had once been a big single-family house, and the owner, Miss Cooper, was sitting on the front porch when we arrived in our rented truck. She watched us walk up the sidewalk toward the house, and the first thing she said was "What's in there?"

She was speaking to me, but she was looking at the plastic cat carrier I was toting.

"It's my cat Oscar," I said, trying hard not to stare at her. Miss Cooper was the oldest human being Id ever seen. Her face was furrowed with wrinkles, and her nose jutted out like a hawk's beak, sharp and cruel. The hand grasping her cane was knotted with veins, and her collarbones stuck out above the loose neckline of her flowered dress.

The real estate agent who'd helped us find a place we could afford had warned Mom and me that Miss Cooper wasn't very friendly and didn't particularly like children. So., hoping to soften the old woman's heart', I smiled politely at her. "Would you like to see him?"

"Certainly not!" Miss Cooper levered herself up from her rocking chair, and the old dog sleeping beside her got up too and growled. He was black and not very big, but he had a sharp, pointed nose and a mean look around the eyes.

"I detest cats," Miss Cooper went on. "You take that creature upstairs right now and don't ever let me see it in the yard. If it kills one bird, I'll send it straight to the pound!"

"Grrrr," said the dog who obviously hated cats as much as his mistress did.

I looked at Mom. She was shifting her heavytypewriter case from one hand to the other, her face worried. "I'm Jan Cummings:' She stuck out her free hand and smiled, but Miss Cooper merely stared at her.

"'And this is Ashley," Mom continued, her smile fading. "I'm sorry you weren't here the day Mrs. Walker showed me the apartment. "

"Ashley." Miss Cooper turned back to me and sniffed. "What kind of name is that? It doesn't sound proper for a girl" She poked her face closer to mine. "How old are you?"

"Almost eleven," I said, backing off a little. Up close, she was kind of scary.

"Almost? That means ten, if you ask me." Miss Cooper frowned, adding even more creases to her forehead, and the dog moved a little closer, sniffing at Oscar's carrier. "Well, I'm eighty-eight, and I know what girls your age are like," she went on. "Don't think you can get away with anything just because I'm old. There's nothing wrong with my eyes or my ears, missy"

"Don't worry about Ashley," Mom said. Putting her arm around my shoulders, she drew me close. "She won't give you any trouble."

Miss Cooper turned her attention to Mom. "Where's Mr. Cummings?" she asked.

Mom's face reddened. "It's just Ashley and me," she said calmly.

"Divorced?" Miss Cooper leaned toward us, taking in every detail: Mom's tall, thin figure, her long brown hair, her faded jeans, her old tee shirt, and me, a smaller version of Mom right down to my freckles and worn-out running shoes. Then she sniffed and turned away. "Come on, Max)" she snapped at the dog who was growling at the pet carrier.

Two steps later, she looked back. "I don't want a lot of noise up there," she said. "I'll complain to the real estate company if my sleep is disturbed."

We stood where we were and watched the old woman shuffle inside and slam the door behind her. In the sudden silence, Mom and I looked at each other.

"Well" Mom said,, so much for a friendly welcome." With a sigh, she followed the sidewalk around the comer to a steep flight of stairs at the back of the house. They were more like a fire escape than anything else, and I was glad we didn't have much more furniture; the movers had brought the heavy things earlier. But getting the little that was left up to our apartment wasn't going to be easy.

Mom paused on the porch at the top of the steps. "Isn't the lawn lovely?" she asked.

I stared down at the neatly mown expanse of grass that swept away from the house. In its center was a circular bed of bright flowers. Bird feeders hung from several trees, and a pair of catbirds splashed in a stone bath.

In sharp contrast, an overgrown mass of shrubbery and towering weeds cast a shadow across the end of the yard. It must have been a rose garden once, but, from the took of it, the bushes had grown wild for years. Honeysuckle, wild flowers, and weeds struggled together to reach the sun.

Tall hedges bordered both sides of the lawn, but from the porch I could see across them. Next door was a big white house similar to Miss Cooper's, trimmed with fancy woodwork and graced with porches front and back, well-tended despite the bicycles in the driveway. On the other side was an empty lot, grown high with Queen Anne's lace and black-eyed Susans.

"Can I let Oscar out of his carrier now ?" I asked Mom. He was meowing and sticking his paw through the bars like a prisoner in a jail movie.

"Put him in your room and close the door, Ash," Mom said. "We don't want him to run outside while we're carrying things in."

My room was at the back of the house, and from my windows I could see the yard, the garden, and the empty field next door. Way beyond were the mountains, hazy blue against the sky.

The Doll in the Garden. Copyright © by Mary Hahn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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From the Publisher
"Thoughtful, entertaining fare for the middle grades." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers

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