Title: Wait Till Helen Comes
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Pub info: HarperCollins, 1987; 192 pp
Genre / Audience: horror/ ghost story / MG ages 8+
Caveats for Younger Readers: Precocious readers will have no trouble with the length or language in this book, but it's pretty scary
Heather is such a whiny little brat. Always getting Michael and me into trouble. But since our mother married her father, we're stuck with her ... our "poor stepsister" who lost her real mother in a mysterious fire.
But now something terrible has happened. Heather has found a new friend, out in the graveyard behind our home--a girl named Helen who died with her family in a mysterious fire over a hundred years ago. Now her ghost returns to lure children into the pond...to drown! I don't want to believe in ghosts, but I've followed Heather into the graveyard and watch her talk to Helen. And I'm terrified. Not for myself, but for Heather ...
This isn't one of those books I read as a kid. I read it as an adult, just recently, to see if it's as scary as other readers think. I can't say that as an adult, I was very frightened, but if I'd read this as a kid, I'd have been pretty creeped out. The idea of a ghost that lures children into danger--a kid ghost, no less!--is properly scary, and Hahn does a nice job of creating a spooky atmosphere with the isolated church that becomes their home, the stepfather who never believes what protagonist Molly has to say, and the truly terrible stepsister. Nothing gory here, but there are chills aplenty for the 12-and-under set.
A former children's librarian, Mary has been writing children's books for over thirty years and is a perennial favorite with readers. Her books have sold more than two million copies and consistently win state children's choice awards. Mary's work spans a variety of genres—historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and fantasy—but she is best known for her ghost stories and mysteries. Wait Till Helen Comes was her first novel. Her most recent book is Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls (Clarion Books, 2012), a YA novel based on the true story of the murder of two girls in 1955. Kirkus's starred review of Mister Death called it "an engrossing exploration of how murder affects a community."
Read about Mary and her many books for middle-grade and YA readers here, on her website. Librarian Annaline Johnson from Laredo, Texas, created a deliciously creepy trailer for Wait Till Helen Comes. Watch it here.
Need more scares? Every Friday in October I'll serve up a new one. Search for the tag Scare of the Week to see them all.