Monday 15 November 2010
Moondial by Helen Cresswell
Published in 1987 by Faber and Faber Ltd
Even before she came to Belton, Minty Cane had known that she was a witch, or something very like it. She had known since she was tiny, for instance, about the pocket of cold air on the landing of the back stairs. (Though she could not have known that a man hanged himself there.) She knew too, that she shared her bedroom. She had woken at night to see shadowy presences gliding across the floor. She had never spoken to them, merely watched, sensing that they were on some silent business of their own.
Minty has been sent to stay with her aunt for the summer holidays as her recently widowed mother had to work. Her aunt lives across the road from a former manor house which is now open to the public. Whilst staying there, Minty becomes aware of some strange stories about the gardens and the house and sets out to investigate. Whilst walking the grounds, Minty comes across the moondial and finds it has a unusual power. The gate keeper thinks that Minty and the moondial are connected and that Minty holds the key to the mysteries of the manor house. Minty sets out on a mission to help the haunted children and solve the mystery of the moondial.
This book is definitely one of my guilty pleasures and upon reading it, I am instantly transported back to my last year at secondary school, into my old childhood bedroom in the house where I still lived with my parents. Ah those were they days, no responsibilities, no mortgage, no one to please but myself. When I am tired and in need of a comfort read, then this is one of the those books I reach for. During the 80's, this first came to my attention through the television series of the same name. A lot of children's books used to be made into series around that time and I fell in love with that, long before I found the book. The book was only discovered by chance in the last few years and has been a well read one since. I do feel that this series was the one that had me longing for Victorian Gothic ghost stories.
This book is a lovely haunting read, that has you travelling across time to the Victorian era. Minty is a strong leading character and doesn't appear to be afraid of anything. The story has you hooked from page one and you will find it difficult to put down. It is quite a slim book, but packed with action and easily readable within a day. If you ever saw the television series as a child, then reading this book will be like a wonderful journey down memory lane.
Helen Cresswell was one of our most cherished children's writers of the 80's. She was responsible for bringing us the joys of Lizzie Dripping and The Bagthorpe saga. She also was responsible for the adaptations of books to series for television, such as Five Children and It, The Famous Five and The Demon Headmaster. If you ever watched these series, then you might find you already have an interest in Helen Cresswell's work.