Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
Ghosts, a family curse, buried secrets -- and two girls who have to figure it all out. A new book from an acclaimed author, for fans of Coraline, Doll Bones and The Night Gardener.
For the first time, Ruth is heading to Newfoundland to stay with family she's never met instead of spending the summer traveling with her dad. When she arrives, she finds life in the small community of Buckle very different from Toronto--everyone knows everyone else, and some of them believe in ghosts and The Sight and family curses. Ruth's cousin Ruby is also staying for the summer, and the two discover they have a lot in common: they both lost their moms when they were two years old, they're the same age and they even like the same food. But while Ruby believes in spirits and fairies, Ruth believes in science and cold, hard facts.
When they find ominous information on some tombstones in the local cemetery, Ruth and Ruby start investigating their family's past and discover that twin girls are born in every generation, and every set of twins dies young, leaving their children without mothers. What's more, one of the twins always has The Sight and can see the Ghost Road that leads to the mysterious lost settlement of Slippers Cove. What happened there? What does it have to do with their family? And who is the ghostly presence that keeps visiting Ruth late at night?
The answers lie somewhere along the Ghost Road . . . if they can only find it.
About the author
A writer and storyteller, Charis Cotter has published several critically acclaimed children's books, including a series of biographies about extraordinary children and a book about international ghosts. Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919-1939 received the 2005 Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence. Most recently, The Swallow: A Ghost Story won the 2015 IODE Violet Downey Book Award, was named an Honour Book by the Canadian Library Association for 2015, and has been nominated for four 2016 children's choice awards across Canada. She lives in Western Bay, NL.
- Winner, Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards
- Short-listed, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award
- Short-listed, National Chapter IODE Violet Downey Award
- Long-listed, Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award
- Short-listed, Rocky Mountain Book Award
Excerpt: The Ghost Road (by (author) Charis Cotter)
The ship was going down. There was a tremendous crack and sails fell to the deck, a mass of canvas and ropes. A broken boom swung wildly in the wind and the deck tilted to an impossible angle. People were shouting and screaming, and I felt myself sliding toward the water, grabbing at anything I could to stop myself. Then I heard my name, and I felt a strong hand grasp mine, and I looked up into my mother’s face.
“It’s okay, Ruthie,” she said, smiling in the midst of the rain and the wind and the chaotic, sinking ship. “I’ve got you.”
I jerked awake and sat up, gasping for breath. I felt the familiar pain in my chest that always came with this dream. My cheeks were wet with tears.
For some reason my room was pitch-black. Usually a sliver of light from the hall shows under my bedroom door, but Dad must have forgotten to turn on the hall light. I fumbled for my bedside lamp, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.
Then I remembered. I wasn’t in my bedroom in Toronto, surrounded by houses full of sleeping people, parked cars and streetlights. I couldn’t call out to my father after a bad dream, because he and Gwen were in Greece. I was in Buckle, Newfoundland, at the end of the road, in the middle of nowhere. I was sleeping in the room my mother had slept in as a child, and my Aunt Doll was somewhere on the other side of the house. The side with electricity.
I lay back down in the bed, trying to get my breathing under control. I was still shaking from the dream, and I was afraid that if I closed my eyes, I’d be back on that sloping ship’s deck, sliding toward the black water. If only I could turn on a light, I could chase the dream away. Why was there no electricity in this part of the house? It was 1978! Everyone in Toronto had electricity all through their houses, not just on one side. What kind of a place was Newfoundland anyway?
What had Aunt Doll said to me about the light in this room? Last night was a jumble of impressions: stumbling half-asleep from the car in the dark after the long drive from St. John’s, climbing up the stairs, and walking along a hall, round a cornerand down a couple of steps into this room. Aunt Doll had an oil lamp she put on the tall dresser. She said she’d show me how to use it tomorrow.
So no light. I took deep breaths, the way Dad taught me. In and out. “Everything can be controlled, Ruthie,” he would say. “Just breathe.”
I’ve had recurring nightmares ever since I was a little kid. The shipwreck dream was one of the worst. Dad would always be there, as soon as I cried out, talking quietly to me. Telling me to breathe. To wake up. To look around and see my room, that it was only a dream.
Except now he was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean with Awful Gwen. And there was no light to turn on, and the dream was coming back: I could hear the creaking of the decks, the screams of the people drowning—no. I took another deep breath. I was safe in bed, and if I yelled loud enough, Aunt Doll would come. Or I could get up and find my way to her room and wake her up. I was fine. I breathed in and out.
But I could still hear the creaking of the ship. Wait—not the ship. Footsteps. Aunt Doll? Coming to check on me? But I remembered her firm footsteps from earlier in the night. These were quite different. Lighter. Quieter. Getting closer.
A faint glow appeared under the door, and then the door slowly opened.
I caught my breath. A girl in a long white nightgown tiptoed into the room, carrying a candle that skittled in the draft and threw strange shadows across her face. She placed the candle carefully on the bedside table. Then she turned and climbed into the bed opposite mine. She leaned toward the light and her long blonde hair swung forward. She looked into my eyes for a second, smiled, then blew out the candle.
I closed my eyes. A delicious feeling of calm spread over me. I wasn’t alone anymore. I could hear her breathing softly. In and out. In and out. I let my breath match hers. The shipwreck nightmare evaporated.
This must be my cousin Ruby. Aunt Doll said she was coming for the summer, but I didn’t realize it would be tonight. Time enough to meet her properly in the morning. The darkness closed around us and we slept.
One of CCBC’S Best Books for Kids & Teens (Spring 2019)
PRAISE FOR The Ghost Road:
“Cotter’s complex and engrossing story is enhanced by its superbly presented isolated Newfoundland setting and a satisfying dose of ghosts.” --Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“The windswept shores of Newfoundland and the Irish folklore add just enough mystique to the setting, making this a winning choice for readers looking for a mystery with a chilly atmosphere but a happy ending” --The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Cotter’s story is as coloured with the culture of her setting as it is with the drama of visions, storms and plot twists.” --Toronto Star
“A must-read for adventure seekers!” --School Library Connection
“[A] story about shared family trauma . . . . steeped in a chilling mystery that esteems its middle-grade readers.” --Booklist
“Readers with an interest in ghosts will be enthralled by this fast-paced story that combines the enchantment of old-time Newfoundland with some spine-chilling drama.” --Resource Links
“[A] delightful ghost story full of mystery and intrigue, with just the right amount of creepiness.” --CM Magazine
"[A] subtle and effective account of empowerment and strength.” --Quill & Quire
"Be prepared to stay up all night with a flashlight, as you will find it hard to stop reading this suspenseful story." --The Telegram (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Other titles by Charis Cotter
Footsteps in Bay de Verde
The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story
Ghost Stories from Old Newfoundland
The Ferryland Visitor
A mysterious tale
The Swallow: A Ghost Story
Born to Write
The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors
Kids Who Rule
The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs
Toronto Between the Wars
Life in the City 1919-1939