Saturday, 20 June 2009

Childhood Favourites #5: A Watcher in the Woods

A Watcher in the Woods

Florence Engel Randall

First Hardcover Printing: 1976

New York: Atheneum Publishers

Jan Carstairs is 15 (almost 16) when she and her family move into the old Aylwood place. Jan wasn't happy about the move in the first place, she's used to the city; not the isolation of this country estate. But there is something else, something more unsettling that has Jan so upset. She felt it that first day, a presence in the woods. The old woman knew it was there too and after talking to Jan, decides to "take a chance" on the Carstairs, reluctantly leaving her home and the Watcher behind.

It isn't long before odd occurrences have the entire Carstairs family upset. Mirrors are mysteriously broken, always in the same X pattern. 10-year-old Ellie begins to "hear" things and relate messages in mirror writing. The TV becomes a bridge of communication when strange programs are transmitted late at night. With help from their nearest neighbour and Jan's new friend 19-year-old Mark, the Carstairs race against time to piece together the identity of the Watcher in the Woods!

I was 11-years-old in grade six when I first read A Watcher in the Woods. I've always considered this one my crossover book; my first step onto the bridge between children's literature and the world of adult books. Skip ahead thirty years and though I remember the thrill of reading this book, some of the details were sketchy. Revisiting this childhood favourite became great fun with all the "oh yeah, now I remember!" moments because try a I might, the ending would not come back to me 'til the end!

In 1980 Scholastic released a paperback edition with the slightly altered title The Watcher in the Woods to coincide with the Disney film version in theatres the same year. To complete The Childhood Favourites Challenge, this 1980 edition is the one I had to borrow on an inter-library loan.

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