A series of fantasy books written by Lucy Boston in the fifties and sixties. They are children's books, but so beautifully written, and so skillfully plotted, they are perfect for adults as well. I know of no other books that so beautifully capture the wonder and innocence of childhood.

I first read these books when I was eight years old. I devoured five volumes and re-read the series every decade or so. One passage I've never forgotten (from "A Stranger at Greene Knowe"): "The world was full of surprises and opportunities. So long as one was not living in a cage." Boston was speaking of a gorilla in a zoo being observed by a young boy, but she could have been referring to many other things as well.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was a sixth volume that tied together the various strands of the series. Apparently, it was out-of-print for many years, a squabble involving two publishing companies. But it is available now and I have just finished reading all six volumes.

The Chronicles of Greene Knowe is about an ancient manor (built around 1100 AD) in the English countryside. A young boy, Tolly, lives there with Grandmother Oldknow. She tells him stories about the history of the manor and of the other children who inhabited it. Soon they start to appear and the adventures begin.

Through the first five volumes, it was made never clear whether the children really haunted the old mansion or whether it was Tolly's imagination. The final volume reveals that indeed they were real: time-travelers from the twelfth, seventeenth, and nineteenth centuries. The ending is sad and quite touching, the sense of loss almost unbearable.

Lucy Boston didn't begin writing until age sixty. She finished the last Greene Knowe book when she was eighty-four.