I have a bunch of books from my childhood I’m fond of… the Frog and Toad books, Jerome (a book about a frog… hmmm…), and Trubloff: The Mouse Who Wanted to Play the Balalaika.
But if I consider what my favorite book from my childhood is, then a major contender has to be The Haunted Spy. I checked this book out of the school library more times than I can remember.
As an artifact, it’s a kind of strange thing for me at a kid in the mid-1970’s. It’s heavily illustrated, but not really a picture book. The style is kind of Giacometti-like. The illustrations are shades of brown on brown.
But the story–oh, the story, and the way it’s told. It haunts me still. A retired spy buys and moves into a castle. And it’s HAUNTED!! By a knight who used to own it. They become pals, bonding as professional colleagues. It’s great.
There were a few of these Haunted… books by Barbara Byfield. Thank-you internet for helping me find the author information, and the list of books. As you might expect, the later books aren’t as good as the earlier ones. But I revisited them a couple of years ago, thanks to the magic of interlibrary loans. And The Haunted Spy holds up quite well. The Kirkus review linked above (which came out about 6 months after I was born!) identifies the things I liked, and still like about it, and isn’t as impressed as I.
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