The tree was so close to the house that they almost seemed to have grown together — its gnarled trunk running up the wall like a great black chimney stack. Palsied branches crept out in all directions like a second roof — including a few that appeared to cut straight through the walls. “It’s almost a part of the house,” Kip said softly (p 14).
Separated from their parents and in desperate need of food and shelter, Molly and Kip travel to the Windsor family manor in England seeking employment. Much like Jonathan Harker of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Molly and Kip are warned by passerby as they approach the dilapidated mansion in the sourwoods. And like Jonathan, the pair continue headlong into danger, despite Kips suggestion to turn away.
Molly convinces Mistress Windsor to take them on in return for food and board though Molly is only fourteen and her brother ten years old and a cripple (he walks with a crutch). The pair soon realize the Windsor’s are sickly and suffer from horrible nightmares. They discover muddy footprints every morning and see a shadowy figure roaming the grounds. But who is the night gardener and what does he do in the house?
Auxier successfully creates an atmosphere of suspense and dread while developing Kip and Molly and probing the reader with philosophical questions. Highly recommended.
Library copy | Abrams | ISBN: 9781419711442 | 345 pages| Grades 4+