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Children's Fiction Ghost Stories

The Painting

by (author) Charis Cotter

Initial publish date
Sep 2017
Ghost Stories, Multigenerational, Parents
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7


A haunting, beautiful middle-grade novel about fractured relationships, loss, ghosts, friendship and art.

Annie and her mother don't see eye to eye. When Annie finds a painting of a lonely lighthouse in their home, she is immediately drawn to it--and her mother wishes it would stay banished in the attic. To her, art has no interest, but Annie loves drawing and painting.

When Annie's mother slips into a coma following a car accident, strange things begin to happen to Annie. She finds herself falling into the painting and meeting Claire, a girl her own age living at the lighthouse. Claire's mother Maisie is the artist behind the painting, and like Annie, Claire's relationship with her mother is fraught. Annie thinks she can help them find their way back to each other, and in so doing, help mend her relationship with her own mother.

But who IS Claire? Why can Annie travel through the painting? And can Annie help her mother wake up from her coma?

The Painting is a touching, evocative story with a hint of mystery and suspense to keep readers hooked.

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.

Charis Cotter's profile page


  • Winner, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award
  • Long-listed, Sunburst Award For Excellence In Canadian Literature Of The Fantastic
  • Short-listed, National Chapter IODE Violet Downey Award
  • Winner, Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature
  • Short-listed, Sunburst Award For Excellence In Canadian Literature Of The Fantastic
  • Nominated, Red Cedar Book Award

Excerpt: The Painting (by (author) Charis Cotter)

I was cold. I struggled up through a dream of long white corridors and breaking glass into my freezing bedroom, which was filled with the white light of the full moon. An icy Atlantic breeze inched its way through the gaps in the window frame and slithered around my bed.
I jumped up, ran to the trunk in the corner and hauled out a red woolen blanket. As I turned to get back in bed, the moon pulled at me, and I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders and sat down in the big stuffed armchair. The glowing disc of the moon spilled light in a wide path across the water.
The beacon from the lighthouse flashed over the silver sea, a steady rhythm, every five seconds. Like a heartbeat. Like a drum.
“Annie,” I whispered. “Where are you?”

The first time I had the dream was the night of Mom’s accident. The house was quiet. A stillness spread out from my parents’ room.
I lay there for a long time, listening. The curtains were open and a full, silvery moon shone in the window, as bright as a streetlight. Its beam fell on the painting of a Newfoundland lighthouse opposite my bed. It looked different than it did in daylight, transformed by the moonlight into black and white, with sharper outlines and deeper shadows.
A white seabird with black-tipped wings swooped across the dark clouds—I blinked. For just a second I thought I had actually seen the bird moving across the painted surface. I sat up. As I watched, another bird leaped forward and dived into the silver ocean with a splash.
“Annie!” called a faraway voice. I scrambled out of bed.
“Annie!” called the voice again. There was something familiar about it, but it wasn’t coming from downstairs, nor from my parents’ bedroom down the hall. I turned and stared at the painting. I took a step toward it. Now I could see more details: patches of wildflowers by the side of the road leading to the lighthouse, a few sheep grazing on the hill, lights glowing behind the windows of the keeper’s house.
Suddenly the blades of grass in the foreground trembled. A wave passed through the meadow grasses. Then another. I felt a gust of wind on my face, and a wild, unfamiliar smell filled the room. I could taste salt on my lips and I could hear the seabirds crying as they swooped across the sky.
“Annie!” cried the voice again. “Come!”
I took a step forward.
Then I was inside the painting, standing on the road to the lighthouse, with a surprised sheep raising its head to stare at me and the dark ocean stretching away as far as I could see.

Editorial Reviews

One of CCBC’S Best Books for Kids & Teens (2018)

"[A] cleverly constructed, compellingly paced mystery that's part time-slip story, part ghost story, part meditation on the power of dreaming. . . . Full of emotional truth and connection." --Kirkus Reviews

“3/4… [T]he mounting tension between Claire and Maisie is painfully believable… Highly recommended.” --CM Magazine

"Readers will connect with the characters and fall into the storyline with its focus on artists, loss, and family relationships... Recommended." --School Library Connection
"Moody and atmospheric... the story unfolds at exactly the right pace and is a delicately nuanced tale of secrets, shadows of the past, family ties, heartache and healing." --Atlantic Books Today

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