Norton, Andre. Octagon Magic
December 1st 2005 by Starscape
Originally published 1967 by Hamish Hamilton
Came across this in the bunch of books from Half Price books that were donated for my students' summer reading.
Lorrie comes to the US from Canada to live with her aunt when her grandmother becomes ill. Her aunt is a busy career woman, so leaves her to her own devices or, worse, to the care of a neighbor with rambunctious children. She is given a hard time by some of the boys in her class (They taunt her with "Canuck, walks like a duck!" I can only imagine how much trouble they would be in at my school if they did that!), and while running from some of them, happens across an octagonal house where a "witch" lives. When she returns to the property to bury her antique doll that the neighbor girl has broken, she meets Hallie, the maid of the "witch", who turns out to be the very nice Miss Ashemeade. Miss Ashmeade asks Lorrie's aunt (by letter!) if Lorrie can visit her, and the two begin sessions of needlework, appreciation for antiques, and some magic visits via a dollhouse and a rocking horse. Miss Ashemeade's wonderful house is in danger of being torn down to make room for a freeway, and she and Hattie manage to "go away", leaving Lorrie several of the nicer (and more magical) antiques.
Strengths: I adore books with elderly neighbors, dolls, wonderful old houses, antiques, AND we get some bonus needlework thrown in. I am sure that Charlotte's Library would adore this, even though Dragon Magic wasn't quite as good. I'm surprised that I didn't read this when I was in middle school. Or maybe I did. It felt a bit like Tom's Midnight Garden.
Weaknesses: Wow. Were the 1960s really a time when people let their children randomly hang with neighbors they didn't know. Of course, The Lost Track of Time had that as well. The plot of this didn't hang together too well, and the magic came out of nowhere.
What I really think: The Ruth Chew books have been tremendously popular in my library, mainly because I love them SO much. If these were available in hard cover editions, I might be tempted. But probably not, since I can't even get students to read Barrows' Magic in the Mix series, which is newer.