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+.