The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story

( 236 )

Overview

Diana and her little brother Georgie have been living in the woods behind the old Willis place, a decaying Victorian mansion, for what already seems like forever. They aren’t allowed to leave the property or show themselves to anyone. But when a new caretaker comes to live there with his young daughter, Lissa, Diana is tempted to break the mysterious rules they live by and reveal herself so she can finally have a friend. Somehow, Diana must get Lissa’s help if she and Georgie ever hope to release themselves from ...

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Overview

Diana and her little brother Georgie have been living in the woods behind the old Willis place, a decaying Victorian mansion, for what already seems like forever. They aren’t allowed to leave the property or show themselves to anyone. But when a new caretaker comes to live there with his young daughter, Lissa, Diana is tempted to break the mysterious rules they live by and reveal herself so she can finally have a friend. Somehow, Diana must get Lissa’s help if she and Georgie ever hope to release themselves from the secret that has bound them to the old Willis place for so long.
   Mary Downing Hahn has written a chilling ghost story in the tradition of her most successful spine-tingling novels. The intriguing characters, frightening secrets, and plot twists will delight her many fans.

Tired of the rules that have bound them ever since "the bad thing happened," twelve-year-old Diana ignores her brother's warnings and befriends the daughter of the new caretaker, setting in motion events that lead to the release of the spirit of an evil, crazy woman who once ruled the old Willis place.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Readers looking for a mystery intertwined with a ghost story will enjoy this tale of a decaying mansion, a wicked former owner, ghosts, and a series of creepy, unexplained events. The cantankerous and unreasonable owner of the mansion, Miss Willis, died in the parlor ten years ago. The mansion has been empty since then except for various caretakers on the grounds. Diana and her brother, Georgie, live on the property of the crumbling mansion and spend their time spying on the caretakers. Because of some unexplained rules, the siblings mysteriously must always remain hidden and are fearful of their puzzling secret being revealed. Diana is tempted to break the rules when a new caretaker and his daughter, Lissa, arrive. Diana and Georgie sneak into the caretaker's home and yard and "borrow" books, toys, and other items that interest them. Lissa tries to explain to her father that some of her personal items are missing, but they cannot find a reasonable explanation. Eventually Lissa glimpses Diana and accepts an invitation to meet her on the veranda of the mansion. As their friendship evolves, Lissa is surprised that Diana and her brother are only familiar with movies, songs, and books that were popular in the 1930s. She attributes their odd behavior to strict fundamentalist parents. Lissa is fascinated with the mansion and recruits a frightened, reluctant Diana to break into the house with her. The consequence of their actions releases a vindictive ghost, solves a mysterious disappearance, and unites a family. Hahn uses suspense, action, superstition, and mystery to keep readers interested. There is a delicate message of guilt, forgiveness, loyalty, and friendship, and although the story ispredictable, it has a satisfying ending. Readers who enjoyed Hahn's Doll in the Garden (Clarion, 1989) or Kathryn Reiss's Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story (Harcourt, 2004/VOYA review this issue) will find this tale appealing. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Clarion, 199p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Eileen Kuhl
Children's Literature
Acclaimed novelist Mary Downing Hahn serves up great spooky fare in The Old Willis Place. Twelve-year-old Diana and her little brother, Georgie, are bound by rules. They can't have playmates or travel beyond a certain area or go into the house where Miss Willis lived and died. But when Lissa and her father move into a nearby house, Diana starts breaking the rules. She and Lissa become fast friends. When she mistakenly releases the ghost of the evil Miss Willis, Lissa comes to realize she is the only person who can rescue the children from danger. The characters are exceptionally well drawn, the pacing masterful and the climax gripping and poignant. 2004, Clarion, Ages 8 to 12.
—Mary Quattlebaum
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Diana and her younger brother, Georgie, have been living on the grounds of the old Willis place for oh, so long. They've seen caretakers come and go, but the new one seems different. Mr. Morrison has a daughter, Lissa, who seems to be about Diana's age. Both girls are lonely and long for a friend but Georgie reminds Diana that it's "against the rules" to have friends; that they must remain out of sight. But Lissa remains intriguing to the children. She not only has a bicycle, but she also has many books and a stuffed animal that reminds Georgie of one he once had. They share even more; Lissa, too, has suffered a huge loss. Masterfully constructed, the story shows readers the same events from the perspectives of both girls; Diana narrates, and Lissa writes in her diary. The combination builds tension, raises questions, and allows characters-and the mysteries that surround them-to unfold gradually. The story is taut, spooky, and fast-paced with amazingly credible, memorable characters. More than just a ghost story, this riveting novel is a mystery and a story of friendship and of redemption. After this tale, readers are not likely to think of ghosts in the same way.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Diana and Georgie have been living wild, depending only on each other. They remain hidden, never leaving the grounds and never entering the derelict house. Longing for more companionship, Diana decides to befriend the new caretaker's lonely daughter. But the friendship leads to complications and danger. When Lissa leads Diana into the old house, she unwittingly unleashes the spirit of the old woman who lived and died there. With carefully incorporated clues, the reader comes to the realization that the frightening old woman is not the only ghost. Diana and Georgie are ghosts of children who died a terrible death in that house long ago. Diana is the primary narrator, with Lissa's diary entries providing alternate views of the events. The young characters, both human and spirits, are sympathetic and believable. There is even a moral here: that love and forgiveness can lead to everlasting peace. Spooky, but with an underlying sweetness. (Fiction. 10-12)
From the Publisher
"Hahn is a master at...suspense....Kids will love this; it's just the right mix of chilling and thrilling."  —BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

"The young characters...are sympathetic and believable...Spooky, but with an underlying sweetness."  — KIRKUS REVIEWS Kirkus Reviews

"Hahn's sure hand at haunting is evident...creepy and enjoyable...it'll need no ghostly assistance to fly off the shelves"  —BCCB Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Masterfully constructed...taut, spooky, and fast-paced with amazingly credible, memorable characters...riveting...a story of friendship and redemption" —School Library Journal, Starred

"a mystery intertwined with a ghost story...a delicate message of guilt, forgiveness, loyalty, and friendship...a satisfying ending." —VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618430185
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 503,010
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Downing Hahn , a former children’s librarian, is the award-winning author of many popular ghost stories, including Deep and Dark and Dangerous and The Old Willis Place. An avid reader, traveler, and all-around arts lover, Ms. Hahn lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her two cats, Oscar and Rufus.

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Read an Excerpt

The Old Willis Place

A Ghost Story
By Hahn, Mary Downing

Clarion Books

Hahn, Mary Downing
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0618430180


Excerpt

The Diary of Lissa Morrison

Dear Diary,
Is this how you start? I never kept a diary before, so I"m not sure.
Up till now I thought my life was too boring to think about, let alone write
about, but that"s changing. This is the second day Dad and I have spent
here, and already strange things are happening.
First of all, the old Willis House is the creepiest place you ever
saw. It"s got to be haunted. Dad says the old lady who owned it was really
eccentric, maybe even crazy. Anyway, she died in the house—in the front
parlor where she slept because she got too old to climb the steps to her
bedroom. She lay there dead for a week before anyone found her. Ugh.
It seems like the perfect setup for a ghost, don"t you think? She
died there—all alone. Think about it. I can almost see her, can"t you? A weird
old lady, white hair, a scary face, roaming around from room to room, up and
down the steps, watching, waiting—oooh, I"m scaring myself.
Do you believe in ghosts, Dear Diary? Dad definitely doesn"t. I
talked to him after dinner about Miss Willis—that"s the old lady"s name—and
I asked him if he thought she haunted the house. He laughed. I hate it when
he laughs at me. Like he thinks I"m silly. Or dumb maybe.
If my mother was here, I know she wouldn"t laugh—but she died
when I was so little I can hardly remember her. Someday I"ll write more about
how much I miss her, but I don"t want to make myself feel sad. So I will just
say I wish she was here right now and we were sitting close together reading something.
I know this sounds odd, Dear Diary, so don"t tell anyone, but I"d
love to see a ghost—just to know for sure they exist. I wouldn"t be scared. At
least, I don"t think I"d be. How could a ghost actually hurt you? They"re just
ectoplasm or something, not solid.
Maybe it"s because of my mother; maybe that"s why I wonder so
much about what happens when you die and where you go and if you can
stay on earth for a while. I"d really like to know.
Now here"s something else to tell you, something different. Not
supernatural but scarier in a way because it"s real. The first day we came to
the farm, there was someone in the woods spying on us. Kids maybe. I"m
sure of it. I could feel them watching me. I swear my scalp prickled. I had the
same feeling while we were eating dinner last night—they were back, spying
again.
I told Dad, but he says it"s my imagination. I"m in a new place, I"m
not used to woods all around, I hear birds and squirrels and think they"re
people. The way he talks, you"d think I didn"t have an ounce of sense.
Maybe I should give Dad some of my spare imagination. It might
help him finish that book so he can get a better job and we can live in a
house with a yard and neighbors and I can go to school and have friends—
instead of spies in the woods.
But that"s not all—someone stole my bike last night. Dad can"t
blame that on birds or squirrels! We searched all over, but there"s not a sign
of it. My beautiful new blue bike is really and truly gone. < the police and they came out and talked to us. They
said teenagers sometimes sneak onto the property and most likely that"s
who took my bike. When I told them I thought someone was spying on us,
one of the policemen said it must have been the same kids who stole my
bike. They live in a development just across the highway from the farm. The
police have had trouble with them trespassing before.
The other policeman shook his head. "Funny things happen out
here," he said. "None of the caretakers stay long. Place gives them the
jitters, they say. Some of them claim it"s haunted by the old lady who used
to live here. Her and the poor—"
The first policeman coughed and said, "We"d better get going,
Novak. We"ve got other business."
I had the funniest feeling he didn"t want us to hear what Officer
Novak was about to say. In case you haven"t noticed, that"s how it always is
with adults—just when someone starts telling the interesting stuff, someone
else shuts him up. I glanced at Dad, hoping he"d ask Jim what he was talking
about, but he was watching MacDuff chase a squirrel.
Officer Novak jingled his keys and looked at me. "Don"t go too far
from the trailer," he said. "There"s no telling who might be hanging out in the
woods. And stay away from the old house."
"I hear there"s a bunch of snakes in the cellar," the first policeman
said. "And the floorboards are rotten in some of the rooms."
The two of them got in the police car. "Keep your eye out," th Dad. "If you see anything suspicious, give us a call."
Officer Novak looked at me as if something was worrying him, but
all he said was, "That"s a real nice dog you"ve got."
We watched them drive away. I was hoping they"d turn their lights
and the siren on, but they didn"t. I guess they only do that in movies.
So now Dad thinks I might have been right about kids hiding in the
woods, spying and stealing stuff. Three hundred acres—there must be a ton
of hiding places on this farm.
I"m going to look for them. If I find them, I"ll tell them to give my
bike back—or else they"ll end up in jail or juvenile detention. They can"t scare
me. And neither can Miss Willis.
Well, I"ve written so much my hand hurts, so I think I"ll stop and
read in bed for a while. It sure is dark outside. Not a streetlight. Not a house
light. Not even a headlight going past.

Your Friend, Lissa

Copyright © 2004 by Mary Downing Hahn. Reprinted by permission of Clarion
Books / Houghton Mifflin Company. Please verify quotations against the
bound book.(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Old Willis Place by Hahn, Mary Downing Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 236 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(184)

4 Star

(29)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(11)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 236 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    THE BEST BOOK EVER!

    I'm an 11 year old girl, and I loved this book! It was a ghost story, a super scary one at that! It was also filled with adventure. In give this book 2 huge thumbs up!!

    21 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2011

    awesome book must read

    Diana and Georgie have been living in Oak Hill Manor better known as The Old Willis Place, left by Lillian Willis over 10 years ago. Rules and re gulations have kept them locked up there ever since the bad thing happened. When new caretakers arrive Diana is willing to break the rules for once in her life, to finally find a friend. Can she do it or will the rules interfere once again. ¿The Old Willis Place¿ by Mary Downing Hahn, is a spooky fantasy story with spin chilling flashbacks. This book is a cliff hanger, can¿t wait to read, page turner. The theme of this book is trust, regret, forgiveness, hope, perseverance and love. It will change your complete point of view on people but most importantly love and how precious it is. Over 2 million copies sold this book is great, and over ten awards won for just this book some of the names of the awards are the ALA reviewers choice award and a other award is Best book Library of Children¿s Congress Mary is a professional spooky book writer. This isn¿t Mary¿s only book there are several more she has written four of them are Wait Till Helen Comes, Time for Andrew, Deep and Dark and Dangerous and last but not least The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall. Mary¿s most famous quote is ¿you look back on some little decision you made it could be whether you sit or stand but no what you will reflect on that decision for the rest of your life. Mary Downing Hahn gets the idea for her books by previous experiences in her life, stories passed down for friends and family and by movies and people that have given her inspiration. She has been writing scary books for over 20 years, but has been writing books for 40 years. Mary is currently retired living in Maryland and has 2 grown up daughters. Her last book was made in 2010, it was also a ginormous hit and won many awards. Mary Downing Hahn uses lots of colorful language for example, the front lawn was a field of knee high weeds and thistles the size of small trees. Paint peeled from the front door and wood trim. The steps and porch had rotted long ago. Shutters hung crooked from the boarded windows; some had fallen off and leaned against the house. Slates from the roof littered the yard. Two tall double chimneys tilted to the right, giving the place an un-stable look, as if it might topple over at any moment in a tumble of bricks. I would recommend this book too detectives like me who love a good mystery. It will leave an impression on you for the rest of your life. If you like this book you will like The Old Willis Place you will also like the book The Hunger Games. I think this book is an amazing, fast passed thriller that will make you never want to put down the book. It has a shocking surprise twist that will lock you up with thoughts that you will never forget.

    18 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2011

    One of my favorite authors!

    Mary Downing Hahn is one of my favorite authors! Her books have amazing twists and turns. This book is an amazing book that ends in a way you will never expect. If you like this book I also recommend Deep and Dark and Dangerous, Wait Till Helen Comes, All the Lovely Bad Ones, and The Ghost at Crutchfield Hall ( all by Mary Downing Hahn also). I have read all of these books too. They are great as well.

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2006

    Hello

    It's the coolest book I've heard of in the whole universe and I think the texture is great too!!!! I love to sort my fav books and then tell them that I don't so they don't think I'm a maniac! It's also fun to make funny words out of it and draw pictures that you think might happen!! Thanks for listening!! Have a great day!!!!!!

    16 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted June 5, 2008

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!

    it was a very good book and don't worry, it wasn't scary!

    15 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2007

    A Chilling Ghost Story

    This was a great ghost story that was very suspenseful. The author does a great job at dropping subtle clues to the reader that the two children are ghosts and not real children! I couldn't put it down! Exciting until the very end!

    11 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Good

    Good read couldn't put it down

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    This book wasnt the general spooky.

    I like it better when mary downing hahns books just chill u 2 the bone.

    8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 22, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    scary

    This was the first book of hers that i had read and i loved it so much that i went online and bought all of her books. She is my favorite author and im currently reading witch catcher.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 12, 2012

    Fantastic Read

    I absolutley love this book. It will be worth your money!!!!

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    highly recommended

    "The Old Willis Place" by Mary Downing Hahn was a very interesting, suspenseful, and scary . well there are many ways to describe this amazing book and when I was reading it I kept thinking in my head "what's going to happen next". Even when my eyes were so tired from reading I could not put it down, when I was finally finished with this book I actually did not really want it to end, I wanted the story to go on. I recommend this book to anyone that loves a good mystery that always leaves you hanging and constantly leaves you asking questions. One of the main questions I really wanted to be answered was what is the "bad thing" that Diana and Georgie would never speak of? For example in the book Georgie asked Diana to tell him the story about the two of them, Diana told him how they were very happy and they lived on a farm. She also told him that they had their own bicycles, lots of books, warm beds and plenty of sweets to eat. And then she started telling him about their parents how their father always used to take them fishing and their mother used to read to them every night, Georgie was enjoying the story of their past until Diana said "those were the best times, except for Miss Lilian". Then Georgie freaked out, covered his ears and said "stop Diana! Don't tell the bad part "and then ran off. This book has personally taught me that when you have people like your friends and family you have to cherish them because they could be gone one day and you will not have them anymore.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2013

    4TH GRADERS READ TOO

    Its an amazing book. Im almost 10 and i love it. The person who said shes almost 11 and she doesnt like it grow up and quit crying ya baby. Stupid girl. Shes an amazin author. Youve got to read her books. I say if you not a stupid baby like her and youre in lets say 2nd grade or up you should like totally read her terrific wonderful amazing works of art of books. If this was art shed be someone like Vermeer or Van gouh or Warhal or you know sombody really smart and extremely good at what they do. This author has an exciting fantastic great terrific amazing fine excuzine beautiful taste in books. YOU HAVE TO READ HER BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear to you they are terrific. Gotta love them.

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    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2011

    A really great story with many twists. Once you start reading you won't want to stop.

    It is about a boy and girl who seem lost in time. They live in a community full of elderly people called Oak Hill Manor, and their names are Georgie and Diana. They don't seem to remember much of their past, but they live by these mysterious rules: don't come into contact with the people of Oak Hill Manor, and don't ever go near the Old Willis Place. Then a new girl moves there with her father the new caretaker. They meet the girl and become friends with her. She likes to do new things and explore. So this is where it all starts to take a twist. I thought it was a great book, and if you like a chilling story this is the one for you. It's truly a great book.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    What A Book!

    Brother and Sister, Diana and Georgie are two kids living alone in their woods. They have been together for years and have seen many caretakers come and go, and the world age, and change around them. Bound by 'the rules' Diana and Georgie is band from leaving the Willis Place land. Then one day a new caretaker, Mr. Morrison and his daughter Lissa move in and Diana starts to question the rules. For Lissa is Diana's age and they are both so desperate for a friend. A new caretaker moves in and he has a daughter that is the same age as Diana. Lissa, the new caretaker's daughter is the perfect friend for Diana but Diana is not allowed to be seen by others. Georgie tries to stop Diana but she introduces herself to Lissa anyways. Diana has never been happier on the Willis land but she knows that there are consequences to what she has done. Lissa is extremely interested in Mrs. Willis's house. The house is old and rundown. Plus that's the house that Mrs. Willis died in. Forced by Lissa, Diana and Lissa go into the old home and release Mrs. Willis's ghost from the house.
    The Old Willis Place is probably one of the most incredible books I have ever read. I could never put it down. It was scary, sad, heartwarming and suspenseful. The character s were so well done. You literally felt as if you knew them personally. You lived their lives, you experienced what they experienced. Their fear became your own. By the time the book ended you were shocked, glad, and also sad that the book had to end and that you had to part with your precious characters. The book changed the way I thought and looked at things. It's hard to say more without giving anything away, so I will just say that this book was absolutely incredible!
    The characters in the end learned to love, forgive, and forget. I cried and the outcome and was so incredibly shocked at the truth behind it all. I loved this book so much that I have recommended it to almost all of my friends and I recommend it to anyone else that reads this. It will change the way you look at things without a doubt. It will teach you a lesson like no other. And you will certainly not forget it. This book is like no other, and really enjoyed it.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2012

    mysterous

    I thought this book is awsome cause i thought it was mysterous and entertaing and at the end mysterous

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    RWAD IT IF YOU LIKE MARY XDD

    I read the first few pages then put it down. I needed something to read so i picked it back up. I DO NOT REGRET IT! its been a while since ive read this book, but i remember that i loved it so then i bought a copy from the school library three years later! XD

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    This

    This is sooooooooo good my teacher read it to the class in forth grade soooooooo good the best book ever and i mean it

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Good book not scary more like mystery

    I read this a while ago but it was really good.not scary at all just mysterious.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2011

    I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<3

    Best book of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:D

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    We Don't Need Any Stinking Rules!

    The Old Willis place by Mary Downing is a very good book that you won't be able to put down. This book is about two kids a brother and a sister. These two kids live in the woods on a farm in a shed. These kids have rules that just appear like magic that they have to follow. They also have a very big secret that can't tell anyone. One day a girl named Lisa moves in and the two kids decide to break a rule and talk to her. Since they broke one rule they kept breaking more rules and weird stuff was happening to them, and may kept happening to them if they don't do something. So who are these to mysterious kids, why do they have mysterious rules, where are they from, what is there big secret, what can and will they do to stop all the weird stuff from happening. This is a very good book I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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