One for Sorrow: A Ghost Story

One for Sorrow: A Ghost Story

by Mary Downing Hahn


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544818095
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 07/18/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 338,938
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 660L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Mary Downing Hahn , a former children’s librarian, is the award-winning author of many popular ghost stories. An avid reader, traveler, and all-around arts lover, Ms. Hahn lives in Columbia, Maryland. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt


Although I didn’t realize it, my troubles began when we moved to Portman Street, and I became a student in the Pearce Academy for Girls, the finest school in the town of Mount Pleasant, according to Father. I was shy, maybe even a little timid, and I had no idea how to make friends. In my old town, there were three girls my age living in my neighborhood, and I didn’t remember making friends with them. We lived on the same street, and we were friends. It was as simple as that.
     But no girls lived on my new street, so when I walked into class on a sunny September day, I didn’t know anyone. All I saw was a sea of white blouses, blue ties, and blue skirts. Row after row of them. I was too nervous to notice the faces, just the uniforms.
     Miss Harrison introduced me. “Girls, it’s my pleasure to introduce Annie Browne, new to our school from the Fairfield Academy in Mount Holly. Please make her feel welcome in true Pearce fashion.”
     I didn’t smile for fear no one would smile back. With my head down, I took my seat, folded my hands on my desktop, and stared at the stack of books Miss Harrison gave me. World Geography, the biggest and thickest, was on the bottom. Weighing it down were five more books—Sixth-Grade Arithmetic, Adventures in Reading Book II, Grammar Handbook, United States History, and A Girl’s Treasury of Poetry, as well as a penmanship workbook.
     Miss Harrison began the morning exercises with the Lord’s Prayer, but before we began the Pledge of Allegiance, she said, “Let us say a prayer for our boys overseas. May God bring them home safely from this terrible war.”
     We bowed our heads, and I prayed especially hard for Uncle Paul, Mother’s brother who was in France fighting the Germans. The newspapers were full of dreadful stories of trenches and poison gas and bombs and battles. I worried every day about my uncle. I wished President Wilson had never declared war, but Father said it was our duty to save Europe from Germany. I was glad he was too old to be drafted.
     After we pledged allegiance to the flag, we took our seats and Miss Harrison pulled down a large map of the world and quizzed us about the war. Tapping her pointer on northeast France, she asked what was happening there. I wasn’t sure, so I lowered my head and prayed she wouldn’t call on me.
     Plenty of hands shot into the air. Miss Harrison looked around the room and said, “Rosie O’Malley. Stand up and tell us what you know.”
     A red-haired girl in the back row got to her feet. She had so many freckles you could hardly see her skin.
     She grinned at the girl who sat beside her. “That’s the Argonne Forest,” she told Miss Harrison. “We’re fighting a big battle there against the dirty rotten Huns.”
     Miss Harrison frowned. “Correct on location, Rosie, but I’ve told you before not to use slang. In this class, we speak formal English. Please repeat your answer, using appropriate terminology.”
     Rosie shrugged. “All right. We’re fighting the dirty Germans in the Argonne Forest, and I hope we kill every one of them.”
     A low giggle spread through the room, and Miss Harrison frowned again. “Just answer, Rosie, without the adjective and your opinions.”
     Rosie’s face turned as red as her hair. “We’re fighting the Germans in the Argonne Forest, but we all know they’re dirty Huns. That’s what everybody calls them. Huns, Krauts, Fritz, swine—why can’t we say what they are?”
     “You may use crude language when you are not in school, Rosie, but in this room you will speak formally. Please see me after school.”
     Rolling up the map with a snap, Miss Harrison told us to open our arithmetic books. Instead of giggles, I heard soft moans. Whether it was sympathy for Rosie or dread of arithmetic, I couldn’t tell. Maybe both.
     After a lesson on changing fractions to percentages, we diagrammed long complex sentences that used up a whole page in my notebook and took a spelling test. Not too hard; I only missed two words out of twenty—a solid B. Father would ask why I missed two, of course, but Mother would say there was nothing wrong with a B.
     When Miss Harrison dismissed us for recess, I was happy to stretch my legs but worried about going outside to play with girls I didn’t know. I walked to the cloakroom slowly, hoping the others had already gotten their coats and rushed to the playground.
     Only one girl remained. She had a pale, round face, and her blond hair was pulled tightly into French braids. She was taller than I was and heavier, not actually fat, but definitely not thin. When I reached for my sweater, she smiled at me, revealing a mouthful of the most crooked teeth I’d ever seen.
     “My name is Elsie Schneider,” she said. “And we’re going to be friends, Annie Browne. I knew it when I saw you come through the door.”
     She grabbed my hand. Her skin was cold and damp, and I wanted to snatch my hand away and wipe it on my skirt. But that would have been rude, so I let her hold it.
     Elsie led me down the empty hall. “There’s lots you need to know about this school,” she said. “Things I wish somebody had told me when I started here last year.”
     “It seems nice,” I said. “As far as schools go,” I added so she wouldn’t think I was a goody-goody.
     “Nice?” Elsie laughed. “Just wait. You’ll see. The girls here are all conceited snobs. They’ve already chosen who they want for friends. They didn’t choose me, and they won’t choose you, either.”
     She squeezed my hand so hard it hurt and added, “But that’s all right because we have each other.”
     Pushing open a door, she stopped on the top step. Below us, the girls in our class played tag, jumped rope, and gathered in laughing groups.
     Of all the girls, Rosie laughed the loudest and talked the most. She was like a toy wound up too tight. She swung high and ran fast, and everyone followed her, doing what she did, and calling “Rosie, wait.” “Rosie, I’ll share my cookies with you if you sit next to me at lunch.” “No, sit next to me, and I’ll give you my cupcake, devil’s food with chocolate icing.” “Rosie, come to the sweet shop after school, and I’ll buy you a peppermint stick.”
     Rosie never said yes or no. She laughed and kept going as if she was waiting for the best offer.
     Elsie made a face. “And that girl, Rosie O’Malley, is the worst one of all. You saw how rude she was to Miss Harrison. She’s absolutely awful. I hate her. Don’t you?”
     “I don’t even know her.” In my eyes, Rosie was exciting, a girl who did things and had lots of friends. She was much more interesting than Elsie, but I certainly wasn’t ready to say that and risk losing the only friend I’d made so far.
     “Do you want to play hopscotch or swing or anything?” I asked Elsie. It seemed to me some of the girls had noticed us standing apart. A few whispered among themselves, looked at Elsie and me, and laughed. I didn’t like being stared at. I checked to see if my sweater was buttoned crooked. Maybe a shoelace was untied. Maybe my hair had a tangle Mother hadn’t seen or I had jam on my mouth.
     In answer to my question, Elsie shook her head. “All the swings are taken. And I hate hopscotch, don’t you? It’s almost as stupid as jump rope and jacks. Baby stuff, I think.”
     “Hopscotch is okay. You know, if there’s nothing else to do.” Here I was again, trying not to offend her. Why couldn’t I speak up and say I loved hopscotch? Like jump rope and jacks, I was good at it. My friends at my old school called me the hopscotch queen.
     Elsie took my hand again. “Let’s walk together, Annie.”
     Conscious of being watched, I let her hold my hand and lead me down the steps. A group of girls thronged around us. Rosie grabbed Elsie’s and my linked hands and held them up to show everyone.
     “Look,” she shouted. “Fat Elsie has a girlfriend!”
     I snatched my hand away, but Rosie and everyone else laughed. One of Rosie’s friends gave Elsie a little shove and looked at Rosie to see if she was impressed.
     “Better not make Fat Elsie mad,” Rosie sneered. “She’ll tell Miss Harrison.”
     Someone began a chant, and the others took it up.

ate a snail,
threw it up in the garbage pail.

     Elsie pulled me away. “Come on, Annie. Those girls aren’t worth a wooden nickel. Who cares what they say? Not me.”
     Trying to ignore the other girls, I walked away with Elsie. Whether or not she cared, I cared.
     Elsie pulled me closer. “I hate Rosie so much,” she hissed in my ear. “Someday I’ll get even with her. Just wait. You’ll see.”
     Behind us, the other girls chanted our names and laughed. “Elsie and Annie sitting in a tree, fat and ugly as they can be.”
     When the bell rang, I was more than ready to join the line waiting to go back to our classroom. On my first day at Pearce, I’d made one friend and twenty enemies.
     Elsie and I took a place at the back of the line. Ahead of us, the other girls giggled and jostled one another until Miss Harrison pulled a whistle out of her coat pocket and blew a warning blast.
     Immediately the line straightened and everyone stopped giggling. Two by two, we walked quietly inside and took our seats without a sound. Everyone, that is, except Elsie. She stopped at Miss Harrison’s desk and whispered a few words. Miss Harrison picked up her pencil and wrote something down.
     “You may take your seat now, Elsie,” Miss Harrison said without looking up.
     “Yes, ma’am.” Shooting a sly look at Rosie, Elsie sashayed to her seat and grinned at me. The dirty looks directed to Elsie shifted to me. The other girls were holding me to blame for whatever Elsie told Miss Harrison.
     “Tattletale, ate a snail,” someone whispered behind me. My face burned with shame. I’d never tattled on anyone, not once in my whole life. I’d rather have had my tongue torn out than tell. It wasn’t fair to lump me with Elsie. Those girls didn’t even know me.
     “Before we open our readers,” Miss Harrison said, “I must tell you that I expect you to exhibit the same good behavior on the playground as you do in the classroom. I will not tolerate name calling or teasing.”
     What had Elsie told Miss Harrison? Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rosie make a face at Elsie, carefully shielding herself from Miss Harrison’s watchful eye. Someone giggled. Miss Harrison looked at Rosie, who sat with her hands folded primly on her desk.
     The rest of the day passed slowly. When the dismissal bell finally rang, my first thought was to escape from Elsie, but she was by my side before I had buttoned my sweater.
     As we left the classroom, Elsie paused in the doorway to take a quick look at Rosie, who was standing at the blackboard, her back to us, writing, I will use proper language in school. Her handwriting sloped upward and her letters were poorly formed, but maybe that was because she was in a hurry to finish.
     “I hope Miss Harrison makes her write it five hundred times,” Elsie whispered.
     Miss Harrison had ears as sharp as her eyes. She gave Elsie and me an angry look, clearly warning us we’d be writing on the blackboard ourselves if we didn’t leave at once. Rosie turned her head and made a face at us both.
     Once more, I was being blamed along with Elsie for things I hadn’t done.
     As we walked down the school steps—it was against the rules to run, according to Elsie—she said, “You know what I think?”
     I shook my head.
     “Miss Harrison should make Rosie write it five thousand times and then erase it and tell her to start all over again, using her best handwriting instead of that scribble scrabble she’s doing.”
     Elsie smiled with so much glee I turned my head away. How was I to escape from her?

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One for Sorrow: A Ghost Story 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was creepy, exciting, and I could not put it down! It never slowed down, and I loved the ending! I highly recommend it!
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I will admit that this is my first Mary Downing Hahn novel that I have ever read. I had been thinking that her novels were too light for my taste but after reading this one, I believe that I might have been wrong. I started this novel right before going to sleep but I ended up staying up way past my bedtime and then I got up way too early so I could finish it. The real obsession I had with this novel is that I dreamt about it. I didn’t dream about the ghostly presence that is inside the novel, I dreamt about the altercations between the individuals in the novel. I was filled with fervor, passion and desire at what was transpiring in the novel. This novel was fast-paced and I loved it. It began with Elise taking claim to Annie, the new girl, when she arrived at school. Elise becomes obsessed with Annie, not even allowing her to have any other friends besides her. Annie breaks away from the domineering and manipulative Elise after Elise doesn’t come to school for a few days. Annie becomes friends with Elise’s arch enemy Rosie (and her posse) and boy, things get intense quickly. It’s funny how fast Annie turns on Elise, telling her to leave her alone and casting her aside now that she has new friends to hang out with. Influenza is hitting their town hard, closing down the schools and shops and killing a handful of individuals daily. With their days free, the girls get the notion to attend wakes of individuals in town. I found this idea, twisted and hilarious, at the same time. They have motive for their actions and they begin to enjoy their outings, sometimes attending a couple wakes a day. Rosie and Elsie have a horrible relationship and as the girls’ spot Elsie one day after a viewing, the In Flew Enza chant which was created by Rosie, shows just how rotten and awful things have progressed to, between these two girls. I found the chant creative when Rosie first came up with it. They’d jump rope to it, singing it as the rope looped over their heads but now as Annie, Rosie and her small group of friends gathered around Elise, holding their hands together chanting the words, the chant sounded horrid. Over and over, the tune going faster and faster, all the while, Elsie is yelling at them to stop as they circled her. The taunting and the traumatizing that was occurring was a memorable visual for me. Bullying, so much bullying between these girls. I’d love to tell you more about the novel but I don’t want to spoil it. I will say, the energy and the intensity does not let up until the very end. I was so happy that I woke up in the middle of the night to finish it. This will not be my last Mary Downing Hahn novel. I highly recommend this novel.
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn Mary Hahn looks into the great flu epidemic from a child’s point of view. Mainly from the stories that her grandmother gave of what had happened during that time. The returning troops in 1918 from the first world war brought back a form of influenza that was more virulent that ever seen before. People died by the thousands, and families held wakes in their houses at that time. Her grandmother and her friends pretended to visit those wakes for free sweets and drinks. This story shows how someone would think to do that and how they would regret their decisions. This book also shows many hard truths about bullies and how they affect children. It is a good story to begin a classroom discussion about responsibility, personal expectation, when it comes to your behaviors.
JanisHill More than 1 year ago
I would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for granting my wish on Netgalley and providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book. Now I want to remind people now that ‘One for Sorrow’ is of the “children’s fiction” genre. I wouldn’t even put it into the YA genre, more the tween (middle school in USA) genre. And I knew this when I asked to read it as, quite frankly, I loved ghost stories when I was that age and the blurb of this book reminded me of such books. And I wasn’t disappointed! The era the story was based in was clearly researched, and I do love the author’s note at the end explaining the inspiration for the story. Just added to the whole story and explained why the setting was so vivid. And the ghostly hauntings were just right for the age group it is aimed at. A little hair raising, but not so scary as needing to only read it in the daylight (or in your parents room as it’s so scary) - yes, that was me as a tween (all those eons ago) when I was reading a particularly scary kid’s book. I like a scare…. But not such a scare as I couldn’t sleep in the dark. So, yeah, my teacher reading the class ‘The Triffids’ was right out! ;-) ‘One for Sorrow’ was a fabulous balance of history, adventure and spine tingling scares - that weren’t so scary that the child might need to lock the book away in a drawer because it scared them too much (me again aged 9). I enjoyed it so much I am going to go hunting for more children’s ghost stories by Ms Downing Hahn and also see if I can encourage my own kids to read them. Sadly, they are not into scary books like I was. No idea where I’ve gone wrong with that area of parenting. ;-) Would I recommend this book to others? Yes I would. My children are aged 13, 10 and 8 and I honestly do feel the older two - if they read ghost stories - would thoroughly enjoy this tale. I am going to try my electronic copy on them next time they tell me they are bored and just see how we go. But yes, I feel this book is perfect for the age group it was written for (and those who enjoy that genre but may be a tad older like me) and would indeed recommend it. Though I would emphasise the obvious - it’s a ghost story. Be prepared if you’re kids do find it too scary. I don’t think they would… but I could be wrong. Would I buy this book for myself? Not for myself exactly, but yes I would definitely consider ‘One for Sorrow’, and others like it by Ms Downing Hahn for my children to read. Ghost stories can be such fun when they are written well, and this one was indeed written well! In summary: A great little ghost tale for children and children at heart who want a little scare.
P.D. Pabst More than 1 year ago
Okay, I’ll admit the cover drew me to this story! But look at it, soooo spooky! ONE FOR SORROW is set during World War I and the influenza epidemic of 1918, this story unravels the tale of childhood school days gone wrong. Annie is eager to make friends at her new school, but Elsie claims her as her own bestie, refusing to allow Annie to connect with other girls. After Elsie passes from influenza, her ghost returns to torment Annie for befriending others and to make sure Annie is isolated and disliked as much as she had been when alive. While this was an easy read, Elsie didn’t become a ghost until halfway into the story. This was delayed longer than I’d anticipated, making some of the bullying redundant in order to get to the good stuff–a scary ghost! And even though the historical setting enriched the story, I felt cheated with the lack of generational terms. But make no mistake, author Mary Downing Hahn creates a realistic story of how easy it is to get swept into bullying when a child just wants to be liked. She also paints a cruel tale of how difficult it is to get out of a this horrible situation. So, if you’re looking for a darker read, this is for you!