The Secret of the Painted House

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Secret of the Painted House Book Poster Image
Easy, fun read draws kids in with ghostly chills.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Emily leaves her little brother alone in the forest.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is little of concern here. But Emily doesn't make a very good babysitter -- she leaves her little brother alone in the forest. This story has a ghost, which very sensitive children might find frightening.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written bypeony April 9, 2008

Not for younger kids: fire-setting, no water safety, sad/menacing ghost

Reserve this for an older kid (10+?) reading below grade level, as a book that though relatively simple to read will hold an older kid's interest.

The bo... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 30, 2011
Kid, 10 years old November 5, 2010

perfect for 3rd 4th 5th 6th

I love that Emily's character adn when I was reading this book my heart was pounding when I was reading the important parts

What's the story?

When Emily and her family move from the city to the country, she is sure there will be nothing to do. But then she finds a mysterious padlocked playhouse out in the middle of the woods. Looking through the window she sees that the inside walls are painted to resemble the woods, including the playhouse itself. Her neighbor tells her that it belonged to a little girl, Pin, who died in a fire.

When she is forced to babysit her little brother, she leaves him picking flowers in the woods so that she can go investigate the playhouse. She gets inside and finds that the ghost of Pin lives in the painting on the walls, and that she can enter the painting herself. But when Pin lures her brother deep into the painting, it's up to Emily to try to rescue him.

Is it any good?

Veteran author Marion Dane Bauer keeps the reading easy and the story intriguing in this transitional reader. Though a ghost story, with a nice goosebumpy chill that most kids will enjoy, it's never too scary. This tone is nicely matched by Leonid Gore's misty grayscale illustrations.

Many authors have discovered that there's something deliciously creepy about characters in paintings, and Bauer adds the intriguing variation of infinite levels of paintings within paintings. Combined with a forest/playhouse setting, and the magical idea of entering into a painting, this is a story that will keep young readers reading. And that's the purpose of a transitional novel -- to introduce this age to the pleasures of literature.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about ghosts and ghost stories. Do you think they are real or just fun campfire-story entertainment? Have you ever seen or heard anything you couldn't explain? Why might some people believe in ghosts even without solid evidence? Why are they so often portrayed as mean and scary?

Book details

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