The Haunting (SS) Paperback – Apr 4 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
This frightening, penetrating tale concerns Barney Palmer, who discovers that one person in each generation of his family has had supernatural powers; has he inherited this dreaded curse? Ages 9-12.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Margaret Mahy's many books - picture books, short stories, and fiction for teenagers as well as younger children - have been hugely successful all round the world and she is indisputably one of the most popular and successful twentieth-century children's authors. She has won the Carnegie Medal and many other awards, and has been nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She lives in New Zealand. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Barney has a problem. He knows he's about to be haunted by a ghost and there's nothing he can do about it. This isn't anything new for Barney, of course. Years ago he was haunted by three different ghosts and they were all quite friendly. Now, however, there's a blond boy in blue crushed velvet following him around and saying, "Barnaby's dead! I'm going to be very lonely". Since Barney's full name is Barnaby, he's not exactly pleased with this message. Soon other strange things start to happen to the boy and his instincts tell him he's helpless in the face of them. Fortunately, he has an incredibly loving family to rely on instead. There's Clair, his beloved stepmother who is pregnant with her first child. And there's his sister Tabitha, plump and happy and ready to talk a mile a minute. There's Barney's father and his mysterious sister Troy who never says much but always seems to be most unhappy. With the help of his family members, as well as an assortment of great-uncles, grandparents, and one wicked old great-grandmother, Barney slowly learns to unravel the mystery of what exactly is haunting him.
More than any other children's author I've read, Margaret Mahy makes me want to quote long phrases of her prose to passing strangers on the street. Just listen to some of the sentences in this book. About Barney's evil great-grandma Scolar: "I don't mind her being wrinkled.... It's just that all her wrinkles are so angry. She's like a wall with furious swear words scribbled all over it". Or this section that describes the neatness of Troy's room: "Troy's homework was set out on her desk as immaculately as if she had been going to do a heart operation on it. Her tiny writing ran across sheets of paper as if a regiment of minute insects with inky feet had marched with enormous precision over the pages". Mahy's a master at the fabulous descriptive passage. Her characters too are imbued with a kind of life and verve you only hope you could find in a good children's book. Better still, they really like one another. I mean, they're incredibly fond of one another's thoughts and feelings. Most wonderful of all is Barney's pure unadulterated love for his stepmother. He adores Clair with all his heart and constantly fears that she'll die in childbirth just as his mother did. Most of the tension that comes from this book is based on characters keeping secrets from other characters because they don't want to hurt them. Fortunately, everything gets patched up beautifully by the end.
If you'd like a book for your kid that's slightly more advanced than the average "Super Diaper Baby" tale, try "The Haunting" out on them. Not only is it written with clarity and precision but it's a great story about ghosts, magicians, and the dangers of stifling what you really are inside. If you want an open-minded book that believes that people should be themselves, if in moderation, "The Haunting" is for you. Another Margaret Mahy creation that'll blow you away.
Mahy has a way of weaving supernatural elements into the ordinary everyday world and allowing the reader to experience both in a fascinating tapestry. The subtle, but powerful magic that takes over the story. The mysterious past of a long-lost relative become intriguing elements as the plot unwinds. But what gives this book its power is the element of family and the varied and often challenging relationships that exist.
Various family members act and interact with each other in different ways, with surprising undercurrents and support structures. It's interesting to see how these peices all fit together--Mahy doesn't present readers with a perfect family, but a family with its ordinary flaws . . . and one very extraordinary, tantalizing secret.
This book will probably appeal most to the sensitive reader who enjoys subtlety and emotional development vs. direct action and adventure. Children feeling out of place, whether in their family or in society, may identify strongly with this story and gain an inkling of their own identity. This might be for the child who is looking for something more sophisticated than Harry Potter, yet enjoys the aspect of fantasy and magic in a contemporary setting.
This book was my introduction to Margaret Mahy. The author has written a number of books that explore paranormal and supernatural elements. If you enjoy this book, please check out some of her other titles, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
^_^ Happy Reading!
The cassette is amazing. Many readers stretch their vocal ranges, trying to give each character a distinctive "voice." Often this interferes with the flow of the text, forcing the reader to speak in ways which sound both uncomfortable and unnatural and masking the author's talents in distinguishing her characters through their choices of words and syntax. Others take a steady tone which seems detached from the text. This tape does neither. Richard Michley is a superb reader who responds perfectly to the rhythms of each character's speech without getting in their way showing off his own vocal control. He becomes a perfect medium for the story and its characters.
The story itself is fascinating. It's a bit scary in places but never superfluously so and the fears it presents are rooted in and comment on the fear of real children in real families even while the fantasy heightens and brings them out. It is a story about one generation of a family and what it and its members do with the pain and madness left over from a past they weren't part of. It is a story about defining one's self as part of a family even while you learn about yourself as an individual. Barny, our protagonist, finds himself haunted. Ghosts speak to him, visions present themselves on his eye-lids, a different, fierce being looks out of his eyes, endangering the life that "had just settled down to be the sort of life he was enjoying, and did not want to change for anything a ghost could offer him." As the haunting continues, he begins to realize that he is afraid not of his mysterious great uncle Cole, who is organizing the haunting "but of his need and purpose," a need that drives him to extremes to redefine Barny's life in order to explain and validate his own. Afraid of upsetting the balance of his family, Barny does little about it, only telling one of his sisters after extreme provocation and cajoling. It is this sister who sets out to uncover the mystery. This is a fantasy story, a story of magic, but for Tabitha learning the source of her brother's troubles isn't a matter of crystal balls or epic quests but of "ask[ing] questions and find[ing] out things," of worrying over whether or not to break "her double-promise," visiting her relations, and worrying if she'll be able to walk her little brother home from school. And it is these details that Margaret Mahy gets so right. While magic creeps in to disturb her world, it is a world built out of the intensely familiar. everyday details of car key searches, and school lunches, and the love of a family and it is these, along with a new dose of truth, which hold it together as the past threatens to tear it apart.
This is one of the best books I read as a child, or rather listened to. I started getting it out of the library at about five (younger than I would recommend though I loved it) and took it out several times a year from then through middle school. I bought a copy of the tape a few years ago and it's as good as ever. This is a book that respects the intelligence and aesthetic abilities of children and my parents still love it too, which is pretty impressive given how many car trips it got us through.
Margaret Mahy has won the Carnegie Medal twice and this book is an excellent example of her writing. As with most of her books the theme of the supernatural is strong, but this is no ordinary, predictable ghost story. The plot has a number of twists and turns that will surprise the reader. Another important theme is the question: 'What is normal and what is wierd?' Society, religion and the personal opinion of valued authority figuers are all referenced as possible answers to this question, but Mahy seems to favour a rugged individualist approach. While Barney is the central character, his sisters, Tabitha and Troy, have important parts to play, so the book can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. Although Mahy is a New Zealand writer the book has been carefully constructed so that it concentrates on a 'family environment' which could be anywhere in the Western world. There is thus no difficulty with hard to understand cultural references. This book would be excellent for children aged eleven to thirteen. Older readers, including myself, may enjoy it, but they are not the intended audience.