A charming story about the Stackpoles, a lively family of six and their housekeeper/cook Angela, who moves into a gothic Victorian pile in the country. 'Follonsbee's Folly' has been empty for a long time, but some members of the family discover that it isn't as empty as they thought.
This was great. A new house is a classic launch for any kid's book, and this one follows several paths successfully. Everyone in the family is delighted with the house except for Angela who has cared for the two older children all of their lives and continues to look after the infant twins. She was willing to go with the family to their new home, but there are many reasons why a crumbling old house is no place for young children, especially if you have to be the one to take care of it all. She treats the children like her own, and often talks to them about her own son who was lost in World War II. The house is in poor condition, but the adults set to renovating the house while the children explore. Elsie is entranced by the discovery of an enormous doll house, the Folly itself in exact miniature, and decides to restore it. Tom discovers the bucolic wonders of the great outdoors and even finds his own project in an abandoned rowboat. It isn't long before Tom meets a young black man out in the woods who, though a little put out about new people finding his fishing spots, is friendly and willing to show Tom around the river and help fix up the boat so they can fish together. The young man, Joe, asks that Tom not tell anybody else about him as he doesn't like to be bothered on his vacation.
Hightower fills the book with descriptions of nature and the happy bustle of a family. The descriptions of the speaking tubes in the house and the underground railroad were great additions. The children have plenty to do with their respective story lines and have some dubious babysitting tips. I was pleasantly surprised at how central of a role Angela plays in the novel. She is sympathetic and well drawn and a vital part of the family. By the end of the book, Angela is the central character of the book and it is gratifying to see how it all works out.