The Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story
The Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story

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Annotation: In a tale told in two voices, Jules, whose father is restoring an abandoned house, begins communicating with a girl who lived there a century before; and slowly, the girl's tragic story is revealed.
Catalog Number: #170803
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 193 pages
Availability: Special Order Only - Contact Customer Service at +1 800 637-6581 or +1 217 243-5451
ISBN: Publisher: 1-328-85092-7 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-3061-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-328-85092-8 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-3061-7
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018006980
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
A girl doesn't know who she is, why she's locked in an attic, or for how long she's been there. Then twelve-year-old Jules--who's always the new kid and longs for permanence--moves in and begins seeing the girl-spirit. Through the characters' alternating perspectives, this ghost story successfully explores its dual plots: one of a young girl who wants to stay where she is; the other of one who wants to move on.
Kirkus Reviews
Can Jules solve the mystery of the ghostly girl in the third-floor window?Sixth-grader Jules is tired of moving every time her father, who specializes in restoring historic houses, gets a new job. The newest lands them just outside of Hillsborough, Virginia, living in an addition to a crumbling mansion called Oak Hill. While Dad starts to renovate from the ground up and Mom continue to draft her latest mystery novel, Jules is stuck in the middle of the woods with no friends. At first, she doesn't know she's being observed by a ghost girl who has forgotten her own name, but soon each begins seeing visions of the other. Something happened in the past that made the ghost girl lock herself in the third-floor room, and the event plays out again every night. With a new local friend, Jules researches what happened at Oak Hill. Can they actually make a difference in the ghost girl's afterlife? Edgar winner and ghost guru Hahn turns out a surprisingly unspooky history mystery, good for readers who aren't ready for her chilling Wait till Helen Comes. Jules and the ghost alternate chapters as focal characters; Jules' are in first person and the ghost's in an appropriately attenuated third. The menace is mostly in the past in this slightly shadowy, modern fantasy with an alternate-world spin that causes the tale to feel unresolved. The cast is white by default.A good tale to hand to readers not sure they can handle grisly ghosts. (Supernatural mystery. 7-11)
Publishers Weekly
In this spooky middle grade tale by Hahn (One for Sorrow), 12-year-old Jules is tired of being dragged from town to town with her novelist mother and her father, whose work restoring old houses keeps them on the road. Their latest move takes them to Virginia, where Jules encounters a menacing, long-abandoned house, Oak Hill. Readers will know before Jules does that her intuition about the home-s haunting is correct; alternating chapters focus on the title-s ghostly girl who, since her death more than a century before, has remained imprisoned in an upstairs bedroom. When Jules, long attuned to the paranormal, sees the girl-s apparition and hears her voice, she researches past residents of the home, learning that the ghost-s name is Lily. Maisie, a girl Jules meets at the library, tells stories of Oak Hill-s grisly history (a family murdered, a hiker missing), and the two set out to free Lily from the room-s confinement. Allusions to Diana Wynne Jones-s exploration of alternate worlds provide an intriguing dimension to the tale, though the resolution it portends is overly tidy. Hahn-s mystery offers an atmospheric setting, a child ghost, and eerie circumstances that never quite cross into horror. Ages 10-12. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 46 Jules Aldridge has just moved with her mom and dad from Ohio to Virginia. Now a seventh grader, she can't count how many times she's moved; her Dad makes a living restoring old homes, which means the family often moves after each job. His latest task is restoring the spookiest house Jules has ever seen, Oak Hill. Almost immediately, Jules spies a strange shadow in the top floor window, as if someone is looking out at her. This cannot be possible; no one has a key to that room. When Jules experiences strange visions of a long-ago family that no one else can see, she knows Oak Hill must be haunted. Jules is fearful about discovering Oak Hill's secrets until she meets a new friend at the library, Maisie Sullivan. With Maisie's help, Jules uncovers the terrible secret of what happened many years ago. The house is haunted by a 10-year-old girl, Lily Bennett, who was left behind in 1889 when her parents were brutally murdered by thieves. Jules and Maisie must figure out a solution to Lily's horrible ghostly dilemma. Told in alternating chapters by Jules and Lily, the narrative is fast paced and engaging. The resolution is achieved quickly, but it will satisfy young readers. VERDICT An enthralling ghostly tale with a neat and tidy conclusion; a good choice for middle grade shelves. Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Horn Book (4/1/19)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal (6/1/18)
Word Count: 35,644
Reading Level: 4.3
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.3 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 197167 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.7 / points:9.0 / quiz:Q72761
Lexile: HL650L
Guided Reading Level: X
Fountas & Pinnell: X


The Girl

The girl is alone in the locked room. At first, she writes the day of the week, the month, and the year on a wall. She means to keep a record of her time in the room, but after a while she begins skipping a day or several days. Soon, days, months, and years become a meaningless jumble. She forgets her birthday. And then her name.
     But what does it matter? No one comes to visit, no one asks her name, no one asks how old she is.
     At first, the room seems large, but soon it shrinks--​or seems to. It becomes a prison. The key disappeared long ago. No matter--​she's afraid to leave. They're waiting for her to open the door. She feels their presence, faint in the daytime but solid and loud at night. Their boots storm up the steps. They hammer on the door. They yell for her to come out.
     But how can she? The door is locked from the outside. Even if she wanted to, she could not obey their commands. She huddles in the shadows, her eyes closed, her fingers in her ears, and waits for them to leave.
     The trouble is, they always come back. Not every night, but often enough that she always waits to hear their horses gallop toward the house, to hear their boots on the stairs, to hear their fists on her door.
     She used to know who they were and why they came, but now she knows only that they are bad men who will hurt her if they find her. They say they won't, but she doesn't believe them.
     So she huddles in the wardrobe, under a pile of old dresses, and doesn't move until she hears their horses gallop away.
     Every morning, the girl looks at a date written on the wall--​June 1, 1889. She doesn't remember why she wrote the date or what happened that day. Indeed, she isn't even sure she wrote it. Maybe someone else, some other girl, was here once. Maybe that girl wrote the date.
     Someone, perhaps that other girl, certainly not herself, drew pictures on the wall. They tell a story, a terrible story. The story frightens her. It makes her cry sometimes.
     In a strange way, she knows the story is true, the story is about her. Not the girl she is now, but perhaps the girl she used to be before they locked her in this room.
     But who was that girl? A girl should remember her own name, if nothing else. Why is her brain so fuzzy?
     Near the end of the picture story, men on horses gallop to the house. They must be the ones who come to her door at night. Did they draw the pictures to scare her?
     There are other paintings in the room, real paintings, beautiful paintings. A few hang on the walls, but most lean against the wall. The same people are in most of them. A pretty woman, a little girl with yellow hair, a bearded man--​a family. She pretends she's the little girl. The woman is her mother. The man is her father.
     She must have had a mother and a father once. Doesn't everyone?
     She talks to them, and she talks for them. They have long, made-up conversations that she never remembers for more than a day.
     If only she could bring them to life. They look so real. Why can't they step out of the paintings and keep her company?

* * *

Years pass. The girl stops looking at the drawings on the wall. She wearies of the people in the paintings. What good are they to her? They're just faces on canvas. Flat. They cannot see her or hear her. They cannot talk to her. They cannot help her. They are useless.
     She turns their faces to the wall. She forgets they are there.

* * *

Seasons follow each other round and round like clockwork figures. Leaves fall, snow falls, rain falls. Flowers bloom, flowers wilt, flowers die. Snow falls again. And again. And again.
     Birds nest under the eaves and sometimes find their way into the room. Trees grow taller. Their branches spread. Young trees surround the house. They push against its walls. In the summer, their leaves press against the only window and block the sunlight. The room is a dim green cave.
     Brambles and vines climb the stone walls. Their roots burrow into cracks and crevices, and they cling tight. Tendrils manage to find their way inside. Every year, their leaves fall on the floor of her room.
     Gradually the house blends into the woods, and people forget it's there.
     The girl stays in the locked room and waits. She no longer knows who or what she is waiting for. Something, someone . . .
     She is lonelier than you can imagine.


The Girl

One morning, the girl hears loud noises from somewhere outside. It sounds as if an army has invaded the woods, bent on attacking and destroying everything in its path.
     Confused and frightened, the girl hides in her nest. Buried completely under the rags of dresses, she hears sounds she can't identify, louder even than thunder. They come closer. The trees surrounding the house crash to the ground. Sunlight pours through the window. She squints and shields her eyes with her hand.
     Outside, near the house, men shout. Who are they? Where have they come from? Why are they here? Have they come for her?
     She smells smoke. They must be burning something. Suppose the fire spreads to the house? She trembles. She'll have no place to hide.
     Men enter the house. They tramp about downstairs. They speak in loud voices. They come to the second floor and then the third. Their footsteps stop at her door. The doorknob turns, but without the key, the men can't come in.
     The girl burrows deeper into the rags. She doesn't think they're the ones who come on horseback at night. They don't pound on the door or shout at her, but she doesn't want them to know she's here--​just in case. So she remains absolutely still.
     Just outside her door, she hears a man say, "This is the only room in the house that's locked. Should we bust it open and take a look?"
     The girl cringes in her hiding place. She's sure the men will find her.
     "Nah," says another. "Nothing in there but trash and broken stuff."
     The men shuffle past the door and go downstairs, laughing about something as they go.
     When she's sure they won't come back, she tiptoes to the window and looks out. A huge yellow machine with long, jointed arms lifts and lowers, lifts and lowers, scooping up things from one place and dumping them somewhere else. Its jaws have sharp teeth.
     Not far from the yellow machine are red machines with scrapers attached to their fronts. They push mounds of grassy earth into piles of red clay. Other machines have rollers that flatten everything, even hills.
     She's never seen anything like these contraptions. They're bigger than steam locomotives and much scarier. Trains stay on tracks; they can't hurt you if you stay off the tracks. But these machines can go anywhere. Nothing is safe from them.
     While they work, the machines roar and snort and make beeping sounds. They puff clouds of smoke into the air. The girl covers her ears, but she can still hear the noise they make.
     A flash of movement catches her eye. A rabbit runs across the muddy ground. She holds her breath and prays the machines won't kill him. He disappears behind a pile of tree stumps, and she lets out her breath in a long sigh.
     But where will the rabbit live? The fields have been destroyed, the woods chopped down. The men and their machines are everywhere. She wishes she could go outside and bring the rabbit to her room.

* * *

Day after day, the girl watches the wreckage spread. The men and their machines cut down more trees and destroy barns and sheds. They haul furniture from the house. Sofas and chairs, their velvet upholstery stained, faded, and torn. Stuffing hangs out of holes. She sees a bed missing a leg, a bureau without drawers, a large broken mirror, fancy tables with cracked marble tops.
     Did she once sit on that sofa, curl up in those chairs, sleep in that bed, look at herself in that mirror? Now everything is ruined. It's of no use to her or anyone else.
     The men pile up the broken furniture and set fire to it. The smoke drifts up to her window and stings her eyes. She feels as if she's watching her life turn to ashes along with the sofas and chairs.
     The men don't stop with the furniture. They burn tree stumps, carts, wagons, fences, and stacks of boards. The fire smolders for days. After dark, the embers glow and the night wind teases flickers of flames from charred wood. The smell of smoke poisons the air.
     When nothing's left to burn, the men turn the fields to mud and plow roads through them. On the flat land below her window, they dig deep square holes. Their nightmare machines destroy everything in their way. Her world disappears before her eyes.

* * *

Then comes a quiet time. Machines still shake the ground, but they're down on the flat land now, hard at work building houses. The girl's home is empty again. Peaceful. She spends most of her time at the window, watching and listening, enjoying the summer breeze and the smell of honeysuckle.
     She keeps her eyes focused on the distant mountains, blue and serene against the sky. She doesn't look at the fields and meadows destroyed by the machines.
     One afternoon she dreams of a picnic by a stream. She's sitting under a tree with a man and a woman. She's had this dream many times. But it always ends before she's ready. She wakes up reaching for the man and woman, but it's too late. They're gone, and she's alone in the locked room.

Excerpted from The Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Ghost story master Mary Downing Hahn unrolls the suspenseful, spine-chilling yarn of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, the terrifying events that put her there, and a friendship that crosses the boundary between past and present. A family moves into an old, abandoned house. Jules's parents love the house, but Jules is frightened and feels a sense of foreboding. When she sees a pale face in an upstairs window, though, she can't stop wondering about the eerie presence on the top floor--in a room with a locked door. Could it be someone who lived in the house a century earlier? Her fear replaced by fascination, Jules is determined to make contact with the mysterious figure and help unlock the door. Past and present intersect as she and her ghostly friend discover--and change--the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago.

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