When I was a kid, the best part of every month at school was the day we got our Scholastic book orders. I was a huge reader, and my mother would give me a dollar and let me pick anything I wanted. A dollar would usually would buy two books, and sometimes I could order four or five, depending on what I could find left over from my allowance or by raiding my piggy bank. The books all had intriguing codes like TX 2421 or TK 1277, and the paperback titles were always different from the hardcovers. Why that was, I don’t know. But it was fun to look at the two different titles and try to figure out what difference the title change could make. (Yeah, yeah…I was a book geek even then.) The book came out in 1967, but I ordered it a few years later, when I was in Mrs. Pyle’s fifth grade class. I still have my copy of it on my bookshelf at home; it’s kind of beat up and yellowed, but still readable!
Anyway, The Snow Ghosts (original title: The Snowstorm) is the story of three siblings; twins Kit and Caroline, and their younger brother Richard. Their father is ill and has to go to a warm climate for three months, and naturally their mother is going with him. The kids are shipped off to stay with their great-aunt Amethyst Faraday at Farthingales. They’ve never met Aunt Amethyst, nor have they even heard of the familial estate of Farthingales, which is in Devonshire on the edge of the moors, but they’re willing to take their springer spaniel Chunky and go. It might be boring, but they’ll be helping their father get well.
Aunt Amethyst and Fauntleroy, her massive golden lab, meet them at the train station. The kids first view of Farthingales comes after a long ride through abandoned countryside; it’s an old house with steep gables and tall chimney stacks standing mysteriously against the sky.
Caroline, Kit and Richard fall in love with the old house. As they explore it, they find room after room filled with fireplaces, beautiful paneling, and things like harps, chandeliers and grand pianos. One of the most amazing things they find is a beautiful antique crystal paperweight with a an old house that looks just like Farthingales inside. Once shaken, a snowstorm rises and covers the house…and that’s when they meet Michael, a boy their own age, who says he lives in the house too.
Aunt Amethyst is keeping a secret from the children; the house is in danger of being taken from her because she can’t pay for its upkeep. She mourns that if only she could find the treasure reputed to be hidden somewhere in the house, she could afford to save the estate. Caroline convinces Kit and Richard to help her look for it. As they search for secret panels and hidden rooms, Michael occasionally shows up to help…but he brings with him a sense of danger. Is someone following him? Does Michael really live in the house? (Aunt Amethyst has never heard of him.) Is there really something strange going on when they shake the old snowglobe?
When the kids are cut off from help by a blizzard and Aunt Amethyst disappears, will they manage to figure out the mystery of the house before it’s too late? The kids are definitely not bored as they try to figure out what is going on in their ancestral estate.
I started collecting snowglobes because of this book. Maybe (I thought back then) if I could find the right one, shaking it could help me solve a mystery or see a ghost too! Sadly, that never happened, but I still have my collection to remind me of this book, one of the favorites of my childhood. If you’re a reader who enjoys mysteries, ghost stories, or time slip kind of books, you’d enjoy this book. I think kids today in third, fourth or fifth grade would enjoy it too. If you’re visiting the moors near Devonshire in the winter, it’s definitely a must read! Sadly, it’s long out of print, but we do have a battered old hardcover, and a paperback rescued from the donation box to share, if you’re interested in finding out more about Caroline, Richard, Kit, Michael and Farthingale’s treasures.