Ten-year-old Chloe Sutton arrives on Prince Edward Island from her home in Ontario after the tragic loss of her parents in a car accident. Her Aunt Laverne is a doctor and her only relative able to take her in. Chloe isn’t sure what to make of her aunt’s big old house on the red cliff overlooking the Northumberland Strait, or the skinny, red-haired and heavily freckled boy who wants to be her friend.
Her first night in her new home, Chloe is tormented by the loss of her mother and father and hides in the dark to speak to them. When she does, she unknowingly invites the attention of a ghostly boy who inhabits the oldest part of the farmstead. Terrified but intrigued by the encounter, Chloe decides to uncover his history, setting her off on a set of adventures. When she does finally find the ghost boy's secret, she realizes he has been blaming himself for years for the death of his brother, much like she has been blaming herself for surviving her parents.
With the wrong made right, Chloe is finally let go of her own grief and accepted her new life.
REVIEW IN CANADIAN MATERIALS:
Chloe arrives on Prince Edward Island unhappy, grieving, sad, despairing, and guilt-ridden. Her beloved parents have both been killed in a road accident, and it was 'her fault'! She was the one who selfishly cried herself into a such a state that her babysitter called her parents home from a rare night out and so put them into the path of the jack-knifing tractor trailer.
Aunt Larry, a world-travelling doctor, presently resident on the Island, takes over, and Chloe finds herself living in a century-old farmhouse with a resident ghost and next door to a huge family of exuberant extroverted Islanders determined to be friends. The ghost is a boy just Chloe's age, and, coincidentally, also very, very sad. Investigating the identity of this boy, Chloe finds out just how similar their situations are. That realization, plus a few heart-stopping scares in the course of the detective work, shake Chloe out of her depression and allow her to admit – and actually believe – that accidents do happen without blame having to be laid at anyone's door.
Readers are told that Chloe is 10-years-old and, in a way, that is a pity since the story might well resonate with older children who could be put off by knowing her age. (It is well known that kids tend to read about people somewhat older than themselves, perhaps hoping to get some foreknowledge of what's to come in the difficult growing-up game.) Chloe is certainly a mature 10-year-old, both in her feelings and her actions – mature enough, in fact, that her constant dissolving into tears strikes a slightly false note. Readers will genuinely feel for Chloe in her grief, and for her aunt's frustration in being unable to get close to her. Nothing is made of the fact that Aunt Larry has lost her only brother in the accident – Chloe doesn't seem to think of this ever.
Marsh, short for Marshall and the neighbour closest to Chloe in age, is a ray of light throughout the book. He acknowledges that their escapade to the graveyard at midnight was perhaps unnecessary as an Internet search would have accomplished much the same, but it was 'way more fun!' Marsh, outgoing and adventurous, has also seen the ghost, and so he is ready to believe Chloe's story, and he generally keeps the plot moving along and interesting. He and Chloe make a good balance, keeping the action exciting and on the edge. Incidentally, Marsh also keeps the book from being a 'girl's read'. Boys could well enjoy Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House, too.
Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, MB, has never been to PEI, but has lived there vicariously though the L.M. Montgomery books. She is happy that Chloe seemed to enjoy Anne of Green Gables almost as much as she did.