Wait Till Helen Comes

by Hahn, Mary Downing. (Avon, 1987 ISBN 0-380-70442-0) Novel. 192 pages. Grades 4+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


Heather has been a disturbed child since she saw her mother die in a fire when she was three. Now with a new family, especially step-siblings, Molly and Michael, to contend with, she is even more jealous and duplicious. Molly and Michael find her behavior difficult but, for the sake of their mother, they are trying to get along with Heather. Now the newly joined family has moved into a large old country house that once functioned as a church with a nearby graveyard and now Heather's behavior becomes even more bizarre. They discover a gravestone with Heather's initials on it. The spirit of the dead child buried there "befriends" Heather and her life is in danger. The dead child, Helen, has much in common with Heather besides her intials since her mother also died in a fire. When the climactic moment is reached, all is revealed and Molly and Michael begin to understand the private hell that Heather has been enduring since the fire in which her mother died.

Unlike some of this genre for readers from fourth grade up, this a really spooky ghost story. After finishing the book, readers might like to look at the way in which Hahn creates that creepiness and horror. The suspense is not created by cliffhangers, a technique used by many writers, but it is palpable with descriptions creating the eeriness and the fast-moving plot propelling the reader and the characters onward.


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