The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story

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The Doll in the Garden: A Ghost Story is a children's novel by Mary Downing Hahn. It was first published in 1989.


Once a ten-year-old girl named Ashley and her widowed mother rent part of a house owned by Ms. Cooper, a bitter, mean-spirited old woman. While exploring Ms. Cooper's dead rose garden with her young neighbour, Kristi, they find a buried box labelled "Anna Maria" carved on the top of the box. They open the it and find an antique doll with an apology note written by someone named "Carrie". The two girls later notice a peculiar white cat (Snowball) that casts no shadow. Kristi claims he only meows in summer and at night Ashley hears a child crying. One night, Ashley follows the cat by herself and travels back in time to find a young girl, Louisa, dying from consumption. She reveals that her parents had already succumbed to the illness, leaving her an orphan and in the care of her aunt Viola. In the house Ms.Cooper lives in, a young girl (Carrie) looks at Ashley and Louisa through a window in the room Ashley now rents. Ashley soon comes back with Kristi and introduces her to the girl. Ashley then realizes Ms. Cooper is "Carrie"; the same girl that stole and buried the doll years ago. Kristi and Ashley convince Ms. Cooper to come with them and give the doll back. As soon as they reach the other side Ms Cooper is no longer her older self and regresses to the same age as Ashley and Louisa. Ms.Cooper says that her father would never let her have a doll, so she borrowed Ann Maria. However, Louisa died shortly after, making it impossible for her to return it to its rightful owner. They find a sick Louisa in bed and then leave after giving the doll back. Ms.Cooper is now relieved and happy that Louisa died her friend, but also remorseful that they could not save Louisa from her death. After returning to the present, they go to the cemetery hoping they made Louisa so happy she didn't die They find the girl's grave where Ashley cries herself. Ms. Cooper comes and lays roses on her grave and they leave. Together they leave and think of what could have happened. Ms.Cooper,Kristi,and Ashley go inside Ms.Coopers home and have lemonade and cookies while Ms.Cooper reminisces to the girls about Louisa and their tea parties in her garden. The last chapter of the book involves Ashley and her mother talking about her own father's death by cancer, ending with her and her mother realizing they had both felt angry towards him for leaving them, yet also saddened by the fact that he had passed on.



Preceded by
Winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award

Succeeded by
Maniac Magee