Ghosts of the Past (and Present)

by mrsweasley@evpl on Friday, February 13 2009, 11:22am. Viewed 1,684 times.

Have you ever been haunted by a book? I was haunted by a book I couldn’t remember. My mother told me that when I was about three years old, I had a favorite book, one I checked out over and over again. I had absolutely no recollection of that book, and I wondered—what kind of book captured my imagination at that age? Was it a worthy book for a future children’s librarian?

Armed with a partial title, I searched Loganberry Books’ stumper database ( ) and discovered Mary’s Scary House by Edith Thacher Hurd, illustrated by her husband Clement Hurd and published in 1956, the year I was born. Well, at least I had good taste! Edith Thacher Hurd authored many children’s books, some of which are still in print. Clement Hurd was the illustrator of the classics Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, as well as many others.

My search grew cold. There were no copies of Mary's Scary House remaining in the EVPL system. A few copies (mostly ex-library) could be had from used booksellers at “collectible” prices. I yearned to know more about this book that had helped to shape my love of books.

At Christmas, my husband surprised me with a beautiful, gently used and AUTOGRAPHED copy of Mary’s Scary House.


Cover of Mary's Scary House Inscription in my copy of Mary's Scary HousePage from Mary's Scary House

I rediscovered a charming story of a little girl who lives in a haunted house with a reluctant little ghost. Mary decides to take over the little ghost’s job, but learns that it is, indeed, difficult to stay up all night haunting. The happy conclusion is that now the ghost can be her playmate during the day.

I was delighted to be able share the story with my grandchildren. I paired it with a recently published book, Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara. I was struck by the similarties between my old favorite and Kohara's contemporary story and style of illustration. In this new book, an enterprising little witch finds a practical way to deal with the ghosts in her haunted house.

Reading with grandmaGhosts in the HousePage from "Ghosts in the House

Did you have a favorite book when you were very young? What books do you love to share with your young friends?

Comments (7)

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kiya@evpl wrote
on Friday, February 13 2009, 1:20pm

What a great story!

The book that haunts me is a chapter book about several kids who had a tree house with a big fan above their heads. One day, they turn the fan on high, and the treehouse starts flying! There is something about a dishonest politician, and I think the kids save the day. Oh, and the book was red or reddish-orange.

on Friday, February 13 2009, 4:17pm

I love this!  I was having a similar conversation with my mom the other night - about the kids biographies of famous Americans from the 40s, 50s and 60s that had silhouettes as illustrations.  My favorite was the book about Dollie Madison.  I have never been able to track it down - I am going to try to "stump the bookseller"!

KateCake wrote
on Friday, February 13 2009, 7:12pm

I really enjoyed seeing the books juxtaposed.

My ghost book? A book about a couple of girls or maybe siblings who solved a mystery about Monticello. There was a peddler doll carrying a basket of miniatures that fired my imagination, and an antique desk that belonged to Jefferson...or was it a fake? I would dearly love to even remember the name of this book again so I can find it!

on Tuesday, February 17 2009, 2:59pm

I'd also like to find Magic Elizabeth, about a doll that enables a girl to travel back in time to her grandmother or great aunt's time. I bought that from my school book club and lent it out to a friend. Another one I vaguely remember was a mystery story in which automata figure into the plot, much like the Melies-built automaton in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

on Tuesday, February 17 2009, 5:37pm

My mother tells me that I made her read The Teeny Tiny Woman to me over and over again.  Apparently I loved it, but she grew to just about hate it! I don't know what my original copy looked like, but friends bought me one years ago. It's still a good story --and it never SAYS there's a ghost in it, but what do YOU think keeps saying,"Give me my bone!"?

Mrs. Weasley, what sleuthing on your part -- And hurrah for your husband!

tacy1991 wrote
on Wednesday, February 18 2009, 10:22am

The book series that haunted me and hooked me on reading was, The Wednesday Witch, I think.  I had one that haunted me as an adult also, it had to do with diamonds and Africa.  I thought it was Danielle Steele but found it by another author in a stack at my mother in laws house.  Crazy how a story can haunt you like that.  Glad to hear about ya alls stories.  Forgive the spelling & grammer.

on Thursday, February 19 2009, 8:01am

This is a wonderful story and how great that you recieved the book signed by the author as such a memorable gift.

I have been trying to recall the name of a book that I read countless times when I was probably in 5th or 6th grade.

All I remember about it is there was a chess set with unicorns instead of knights and there was a cave.  I am sure there was a treasure or mystery involved!