Ghost Soldier

Written by Theresa Breslin
Review by Ann Turnbull

Rob and Millie’s soldier father is missing in action after the battle of the Somme, and their mother is finding it hard to cope. The family’s sheep-dog has had puppies, and Millie wants to keep the smallest one, but a vet comes to requisition all the pups to be trained as messenger dogs for the army. The children hide Millie’s puppy in a shed in the garden of an abandoned house that’s said to be haunted. Rob thinks he glimpses the ghost, but he isn’t sure – and anyway, he doesn’t believe in ghosts.

When the haunted house is occupied by army medical staff, Rob and Millie overhear a strange conversation that leads them to jump to a wrong conclusion. The final part of the book, containing the solution to this mystery, kept me guessing and made for a satisfying and believable ending.

This is an exciting, heart-warming story involving the children’s desperate search for news of their father, soldiers suffering from shell-shock (barely understood at the time), an emotionally damaged boy, and a Scottish farming community pulling together to help one another. There is a lot of information about the war, about shell-shock and its treatment, and new medical ideas. I think teachers in particular will like this story and find it a useful resource because children will learn so much from it – and it’s a good story in its own right.

And the ghost? Very subtle and understated. It’s exactly right for this story – though some children might be disappointed by the low level of spookiness. For children of 8+.