By GLENN TOLLE
The Christmas season is upon us, with themed ads running on TV, Christmas trees popping up in living room windows, and effigies of Old Saint Nick in crowded stores. With all this in mind, I thought it only appropriate to recommend a book for the season, something warm, spooky and that begins with the exclamation “Ho, ho, ho!” You’ll find all that in THE GHOST OF POPCORN HILL by Betty Ren Wright, illustrated by Karen Ritz and published by LITTLE APPLE PAPERBACK in 1993.
Wright could easily be considered the M.R. James of children’s fiction; she is chiefly remembered for writing THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS and numerous ghost stories for young readers. Her ghost stories are punctuated with a sense of genuine eeriness and genuine characterization that remain unequaled.
THE GHOST OF POPCORN HILL is a somewhat forgotten book in the author’s oeuvre. In it, two boys, Peter and Martin, are adjusting to their new life in a little cabin on Popcorn Hill, which is haunted. At night the boys hear the “Ho, ho, ho” of an unseen entity and the only thing that keeps them going is the thought of getting a new dog. But when they finally get the hound they are disappointed; it isn’t a big dog, like one they’re hoping for, and she’s somewhat clumsy. In other words, she’s nothing like the dog they keep seeing at the bottom of Popcorn Hill. Whose dog is it? The abandoned mill beyond the orchard holds the answer to the question and the question of who is haunting their cabin. But the boys don’t know this…at least not at first.
THE GHOST OF POPCORN HILL is a breezy read that manages to tie all of its narrative threads into a perfect bow. Never overwhelmingly frightening, just quietly creepy, this story of two boys and two ghosts finding comfort in companionship is perfect for readers that have trouble sleeping after a scary story.
My edition of THE GHOST OF POPCORN HILL can be bought on THRIFTBOOKS.COM for $3.99 plus shipping, used, in “Very Good” condition.
If you’re looking for a slightly scary ghost story to gift this Christmas then I recommend THE GHOST OF POPCORN HILL. It’s a great little book to stuff in a stocking.