________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 4. . . .September 28, 2012


Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House.

Patti Larsen.
Charlottetown, PE: Acorn Press, 2012.
153 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-1-894838-71-9.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4



The mosquitoes were out now. At least their whining buzz was familiar. Chloe turned and headed back to the house. She decided to finish her circle of the place, walking past the massive door facing the water and around the corner. A huge garden planted among the row of maples filled the side yard. She followed the tidy stone path through the banks of well-tended flowers, passing a small neat shed painted the same as the house. Chloe stepped up on the fresh wooden deck, the one she had seen from the front, which filled in the crook of the fat "L" shape of the house. The moment she did, she felt a shiver run through her.

Someone was watching her. Chloe looked around, but didn't see anyone. She looked into the house but all she saw through the window was Aunt Larry talking on the phone in the kitchen. Larry saw her and waved for her to come inside. Chloe tried to shrug off the feeling, but it wouldn't go away. She took a slow step. As she did, the last of the sun caught the window above her, the only one on the smaller part of the house. Chloe looked up. The window was very small, the glass reflecting the sunset. She studied it for a moment. As she did, she was certain, even through the glare, that she saw a hazy face looking back at her.

Startled, she looked away. She had imagined it, she was sure. Still, it gave her the creeps.

Chloe stood there, frozen by the willies until Aunt Larry's voice calling her from indoors shook her out of her fear. With one last look at the window, Chloe went inside.


Chloe arrives on Prince Edward Island unhappy, grieving, sad, despairing, and guilt-ridden. Her beloved parents have both been killed in a road accident, and it was 'her fault'! She was the one who selfishly cried herself into a such a state that her babysitter called her parents home from a rare night out and so put them into the path of the jack-knifing tractor trailer.

     Aunt Larry, a world-travelling doctor, presently resident on the Island, takes over, and Chloe finds herself living in a century-old farmhouse with a resident ghost and next door to a huge family of exuberant extroverted Islanders determined to be friends. The ghost is a boy just Chloe's age, and, coincidentally, also very, very sad. Investigating the identity of this boy, Chloe finds out just how similar their situations are. That realization, plus a few heart-stopping scares in the course of the detective work, shake Chloe out of her depression and allow her to admit and actually believe that accidents do happen without blame having to be laid at anyone's door.

      Readers are told that Chloe is 10-years-old and, in a way, that is a pity since the story might well resonate with older children who could be put off by knowing her age. (It is well known that kids tend to read about people somewhat older than themselves, perhaps hoping to get some foreknowledge of what's to come in the difficult growing-up game.) Chloe is certainly a mature 10-year-old, both in her feelings and her actions mature enough, in fact, that her constant dissolving into tears strikes a slightly false note. Readers will genuinely feel for Chloe in her grief, and for her aunt's frustration in being unable to get close to her. Nothing is made of the fact that Aunt Larry has lost her only brother in the accident Chloe doesn't seem to think of this ever.

      Marsh, short for Marshall and the neighbour closest to Chloe in age, is a ray of light throughout the book. He acknowledges that their escapade to the graveyard at midnight was perhaps unnecessary as an Internet search would have accomplished much the same, but it was 'way more fun!' Marsh, outgoing and adventurous, has also seen the ghost, and so he is ready to believe Chloe's story, and he generally keeps the plot moving along and interesting. He and Chloe make a good balance, keeping the action exciting and on the edge. Incidentally, Marsh also keeps the book from being a 'girl's read'. Boys could well enjoy Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House, too.


Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, MB, has never been to PEI, but has lived there vicariously though the L.M. Montgomery books. She is happy that Chloe seemed to enjoy Anne of Green Gables almost as much as she did.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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