Thursday, April 09, 2015

Patchwork of the Crosses




I’ve been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to pace myself on reading the series of children’s books authored by Lucy Boston.  I tend to read books I really like too fast and I’m always disappointed when they’re finished!  In spite of all my rationing efforts, I finished reading the fifth book in the series, “An Enemy At Green Knowe”, last week.  Each of the books is so different it’s hard to resist seeing which direction Lucy Boston will head off in next.
You can just see the reflection of Lucy’s love for her surroundings and her home’s imagined history in all of her books.  I think you’ll love the enchanting way house, garden, and statuary become characters as important as the people!   All old houses, over time, gather some sort of magic, and none more so than Green Knowe.  Green Knowe is the old house, founded in Norman times, that turns into a refuge for ghosts, time travelers and gorillas alike in Lucy’s books.
In "An Enemy At Green Knowe" both Tolly and Ping are staying at the manor.  Mrs. Oldknow tells them the story of Doctor Vogel, a tutor and magician who came to a diabolical end at Green Knowe centuries before. The next day, Professor Melanie D. Powers appears, hunting for Vogel's occult papers.  Professor Powers' interest is far from academic, however, and a mounting confrontation between the holy magic of Green Knowe and the forces of Evil, represented by Melanie Powers, commences. Spells, potions, secret languages written on bat’s wings, cobwebs, black cats, snakes – it’s all in the story, but you’ll have to read the book to see how creatively Tolly and Ping thwart the evil!
With the introduction of witchcraft, this book takes a decidedly darker turn than previous novels in the series.  For me, that wasn’t a negative -there are certainly places where you hold your breath with anticipation - Dr Powers is genuinely scary - but the frightening episodes are over quite quickly, and not drawn out in a disturbing way for children.  There are minor victories all through the book, allowing for bedtime readings which see Tolly and Ping secure within the walls of Green Knowe for another night, at least.
Peter Boston's illustrations are an essential part of the Green Knowe books - done on scraperboard, they are rather hard to reproduce here, but, in the books, the intricacy of the drawings makes you want to study the detail. They provide the perfect reflection of the delicacy with which the stories are told, and their deep sense of magic and history.


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