The Ghost of Thomas Kempe
|The Ghost of Thomas Kempe|
Front cover of first edition
|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, supernatural fiction|
|Publication date||26 March 1973|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||156 pp (first edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-434-94894-2 (US)|
|LC Classification||PZ7.L7397 Gh|
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe is a low fantasy novel for children by Penelope Lively, first published by Heinemann in 1973 with illustrations by Anthony Maitland. Set in present-day Oxfordshire, it features a boy and his modern family who are new in their English village, and seem beset by a poltergeist. Soon the boy makes acquaintance with the titular Thomas Kempe, ghost of a 17th-century resident sorcerer who intends to stay.
James Harrison and his family move into a small cottage in a village called Ledsham. From the first day they are disturbed by incidents that are caused by a ghost called Thomas Kempe, as James eventually learns. In life Kempe had been a 17th-century cunning man ("sorcerer") and now he wants to resume work. He attacks people whose work he regards as usurping his place, such as the village doctor, nurse, policemen, and pharmacist. He is also vicious to the vicar, but he is at his most dangerous in regard to Mrs Verity, whom he believes to be a witch. Kempe tries to make James his apprentice and James is blamed for many of the incidents. But eventually Kempe realizes that things have changed since his time and asks James to help him move on to the afterlife.
- Major characters
- James, the main character
- Mrs Harrison, James's mother
- Mr Harrison, James's father
- Helen, James's sister
- Tim the dog
- Thomas Kempe, the poltergeist who troubles James
- Minor characters
- Simon, James's friend
- Bert, the local handyman who tries to deal with the poltergeist
- Mrs Verity, an old lady whom Thomas Kempe accuses of being a witch
- Arnold, a Victorian boy who experienced the ghost before James
- Aunt Fanny, Arnold's aunt
- Mr Hollings, James's teacher
- The vicar
- Julia, Helen's friend
An interest in history, the passage of time and local change is a running theme in the work of Penelope Lively and can be seen in many of her books. Beside Mr Kempe from the 17th century, this story involves both a 19th-century resident of the cottage and the history of the surrounding countryside.
In 1978, a film was made based on the novel, which aired on the ABC Weekend Special, a showcase for a variety of different films aimed at children. The film was re-broadcast many times over the years, and has had several releases on home video. The book was also read on BBC's Jackanory. In 1977, a radio play version was aired over a number of weeks on Australia's ABC radio.
Yet did he know
- Penelope Lively also won the 1987 Booker Prize, recognising Moon Tiger as the year's best novel. She is the only author to win both of the most prestigious British book awards, which have covered books for children from 1937 and novels for adults from 1968. Nationality conditions have varied.
- The Ghost of Thomas Kempe in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, 1973 US edition
- Penelope Lively at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
|Carnegie Medal recipient