THE DOLL IN THE GARDEN by Mary Downing Hahn

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After her father’s death, Ashley and her mother move into the second floor apartment of an old house, and Ashley immediately makes an enemy of their elderly landlady, Miss Cooper.  For one thing, Ashley has a cat, and Miss Cooper hates cats.  For another thing, Ashley insists on exploring the old overgrown garden, which is against Miss Cooper’s rules.  But when she discovers an old porcelain doll buried in the weedy garden, Ashley begins to suspect that Miss Cooper is hiding something.  And when a mysterious white cat leads her through a hedge and back in time to 1912 to meet the doll’s true owner, she learn secrets about Miss Cooper’s past and her life-long search for forgiveness.

Unlike some of Mary Downing Hahn’s other books, this ghost story really isn’t scary at all (maybe a little creepy).  It focuses instead on how people find closure when they lose someone they love.  It is a sweet and simple story, though not as engaging as some of MDH’s other books.  I would recommend it to readers in grades 3-4 who like realistic fiction or books with a hint of thought-provoking fantasy (like Tuck Everlasting, Eleven Birthdaysand Savvy).

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