Janet Lunn,
Twin Spell
(Harper & Row, 1969)

When twins Jane and Elizabeth saw the doll in the antique shop window, they knew that they had to get a closer look at it. And even though it was a ratty old thing in tattered clothes, they just had to hold it for a moment, though the shopkeeper said it wasn't for sale. But the oddest thing of all was when the shopkeeper suddenly changed her mind and sold it to them for the little bit of money they had in their pockets. They named the doll Amelia, an old-fashioned name that seemed to fit her.

It was when they brought Amelia to Aunt Alice's house that the weird occurrences started. First, Elizabeth fell down the stairs from Aunt Alice's attic -- a strange, dark room with a cold, malevolent feeling in it. And both twins started having odd visions of a time long past, when Amelia wasn't ancient and battered, but new, her face freshly painted.

The strange things didn't stop happening when the family moved into Aunt Alice's house after she too fell down the stairs -- and in the same spot as Elizabeth. Who were Anne and Melissa, another set of twins, who had had dolls just like Amelia? What had happened to them? And who was Hester and why did she hate them so? All through the long, hot summer, with past and present beginning to melt together, the twins find themselves trying desperately to answer these and other questions, before someone else gets hurt.

Twin Spell is a children's mystery, which is by turns exciting and scary. The plot develops quickly, taking its twists and turns as the mystery unfolds, leading up to the unforeseen ending.

Elizabeth and Jane both take their turns as viewpoint characters. Both are interesting and believable. They aren't the same; Elizabeth is a dreamer and Jane is more analytical. And they don't necessarily like being twins. But they are sisters and when the mystery deepens and begins to be frightening, they support and help one another as sisters should.

I first read Twin Spell when I was about 12 years old. It made such an impression on me that I sought it out years later so that I could read it again. Not surprisingly, it stood up to my memories of it, and even though it is a book more suitable for 8- to 13-year-olds, I found myself enjoying it as much in my 30s as I did in junior high school.

Twin Spell is unfortunately out of print, but should be available through a library or used bookstore.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]
Rambles: 21 July 2001




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