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The Doll In The Garden (1990)

The Doll in the Garden (1990)

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4.02 of 5 Votes: 2
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0380708655 (ISBN13: 9780380708659)
harpercollins publishers

About book The Doll In The Garden (1990)

I found this while looking around on my library's digital download site, and I realized that I had read this book before when I was a kid, then almost completely forgot about it. I decided to read it again to refresh my memory of how it ended.Miss Cooper has to be one of the most crotchety elderly ladies I've ever come across in fiction. One wonders why she would even rent out her upstairs apartment to a single-mother with a child, especially when there is a girl next door who might come over to play if children move in. I guess she needed the rent that badly.She certain doesn't mind the idea of calling the realtor and throwing her lodgers out if Ashley, the main character, keeps wandering into the overgrown garden in her backyard, even though Ashley wishes to fix it up for a place to play. Also, following the white cat that keeps showing up at night and calling outside her window is a big temptation.The girls eventually dig up a box in the backyard with an old doll in it, and the cat draws Ashley through the hedge into a world of the past shaded in twilight even when it is broad daylight in the real world. Here she meets the former owner of the doll, now a ghost.This twilight world leaves me with a lot of questions. Time is clearly progressing inside of this capsule world, and Louisa, the ghost girl, is clearly dying of consumption and they need to get the doll back to her before she dies. However, Miss Cooper mentions later that she had been hearing the haunted crying and seeing the ghost cat for many years now. So, does the world trapped in the past progress in time then reset itself? Has the time in this frozen world finally started to move forward because the girls visited, and would it have remained static if they never came?The book never explains this, nor does it really need to for the resolution to be fulfilling. I just tend to over-think these things.So did this book live up to my experience with it nearly 20 years ago? Actually, I'd say yes, although the focus of my enjoyment is different than it was when I was young. I don't find the book nearly as creepy or suspenseful as I did as a child, but now that I'm older, I'm better able to appreciate the exploration this book makes of feelings of guilt or resentment that can come when someone close to you passes away with things left unsaid or done.The prose is solid, and the description enhances a sense of atmosphere without being too wordy. The characters have the level of simplicity you would expect from a Middle Grade level book, but they are still believable and act like someone of their age and personal experience.My only complaint would be with the digital conversion of the ebook. The version I checked out from Overdrive is full of OCR conversion typos that were never proofread by the publisher. There are lots of reoccurring errors like "eves" for "eyes", "Up" for "lip", and garbled punctuation. And this isn't the first ebook I've borrowed recently that had these typos. I really wish that publishers would check their scans before putting these things out.

THE DOLL IN THE GARDEN by Mary Downing Hahn is part ghost story, part grief counselor. It revolves around a little girl named Ashley, who has recently moved with her mom into an apartment over an old lady's house. She and a neighbor find an old doll buried in a neglected garden and are soon plunged into a world of ghosts and 70-year-old secrets. For such a short children's book, the characters have amazing depth. Ashley in particular, is dealing with the loss of her father to cancer, the facts of which come out slowly and organically. This loss colors almost everything she does and how she interacts with all of the other characters. In the end, not only must she find a way to appease the ghosts, but she ultimately has to deal with her loss. She's angry, and in being so she is ashamed. And she has real concerns that I myself remember having when people close to me have died, the chief of which was "Did they know that I loved them?" It's a big question for a children's book, and I believe it was handled masterfully. I'll admit, I even started tearing up at the end when Ashley was forced to give voice to her loss.

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Ah, Scholastic Book Fairs...I read this book, multiple times most likely, when I was in elementary school (20 or so years ago...) and, every now and then (for the past 20 or so years...), the thought of this story will pop randomly into my brain. I can't recall the specific details of the book, but I do remember counting it as one of my favorites. I think this book may have been my introduction to supernatural/ghosty stories and, because of my love for this story, it's an interest that hasn't waned since. If I ever have a daughter, this will definitely be one book that I'll encourage her to read. :)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Mary Downing Hahn's books are hit and miss for me. Some of them are good, and some are just horrible. This one was a hit. I loved the story, or should I say stories, which in the end weave together. I didn't like Mrs. Cooper in the beginning, she was mean, grumpy and I really didn't understand why should would rent her top floor to a mother and child, when she hates children.I also disliked how she complained about everything the kids did. Instead of just talking to them normally, explaining things, she shouted and threatened with evicting the mother and kid.The book wasn't that creepy, it was a bit spooky, but no big scares happen. I liked the (view spoiler)[travel under a hedge, guided by a ghost cat to another time/world (hide spoiler)]

Personal reaction: I liked this book because it was different from the other fantasy books I have read. It was definitely scarier and spookier than I thought it would be. I liked how the little girl was portrayed as innocent and naïve, because many children can relate to this. I also liked how the book encouraged curiosity and imagination. Purpose/use in classroom: I think this would be a good read aloud book for 3rd or 4th graders during the Halloween season. I think Halloween is a good time to introduce fantasy books, because children are in that creative and spooky mindset. Although, I am not sure boys would be likely to read it because it is about a little girl and a doll that she found.
—Ann Marie Olson

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