cover image The Roundhill

The Roundhill

Dick King-Smith. Crown Publishers, $15.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-517-80047-8

King-Smith (Spider Sparrow) imbues this leisurely tale, set in the summer of 1936 in a dreamy corner of the Cotswolds, with a strong sense of time and place. The Roundhill has always been special to 14-year-old Evan, who can see its tree-crowned peak from his bedroom window and who views it as a physical and spiritual touchstone: ""I'd like to think there was a God, I really would, he told himself. Perhaps one day I will. In the meantime, I've got the Roundhill."" On a pilgrimage to its peak, he is surprised to find a mysterious girl there, a fact he finds annoying at first, and later intriguing. Alice's enigmatic comments, old-fashioned dress and habit of suddenly appearing and disappearing eventually lead Evan to believe that she is a ghost, and the remainder of the tale is spent unraveling her identity. Served up with a measure of suspense and King-Smith's usual flair, this will prove satisfying fare, especially for sophisticated readers who may be more keenly attuned to Alice's literary ties: she is Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. Even Bailey's drawings of the girl are a nod to Sir John Tenniel; the delicate pen-and-inks add a touch of timelessness to the pages. Ages 10-13. (Nov.)