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The Children of Green Knowe

found in: language arts & literature; 3-5; 6-8

The Children of Green Knowe (1954) by L. M. Boston (1892-1990) While his father and stepmother are in Burma, seven-year-old Tolly takes a train from boarding school to spend Christmas holidays with his great-grandmother Oldknow in her ancient manor house, Green Knowe. As he explores the house and its garden with topiary animals, he quickly becomes aware of the presence of three children, relatives who died during the Great Plague of London (1665-66). His great-grandmother tells stories of Toby, Alexander, and Linnet to prepare Tolly for their increasing interactions with him, and in the process Tolly begins to feel that he belongs to a larger family. At Green Knowe, past and present exist simultaneously and generations of characters resemble each other and have the same names. Some of the anachronisms are intentional, but some may not be, for example the matryoshka doll Captain Oldknow brought back from the Black Sea. The novel combines benign ghosts and time travel in a house that is much a character as those who live in it. The illustrations are the work of L.M Boston’s architect son Peter. The novel has been recommended for grades 4-8, but teachers will need to judge how receptive their students may be.

The Children of Green Knowe is the first in a series of six novels. The other five are: The Treasure of Green Knowe (1958), The River at Green Knowe (1959), A Stranger at Green Knowe (1961), An Enemy at Green Knowe (1964), and The Stones of Green Knowe (1976).

Ealing Studios produced a loose adaptation of The Children of Green Knowe in From Time To Time in 2009. The BBC produced a more faithful mini-series in 1986. These may be available at your local library.


Anachronisms - Online Lesson In this series of activities, students learn what an anachronism is, why they happen, how to identify them, and write a story including them.


Lucy Boston was known for her twenty-two patchwork quilts as well has her fiction and nonfiction. Here is a lesson that requires no sewing and a reference that provides images of her quilts. Patchwork Quilt Students use different shapes and markers to create a patchwork quilt. L.M.

Boston Patchwork provides a video and written tutorials and information on English Paper Piecing.


Another reference provides images of complete quilts and details. The Patchworks of Lucy Boston by Lucy Boston and Julia Hedgecoe (photos) Biography and images of twenty-two quilts. Check your library.

Historical Context for Teachers

Civil War

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts fought by Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers"). During the Civil War Charles I was tried and executed for treason, Oliver Cromwell and Parliament ruled, and eventually Charles II was restored to the throne.

Christmas Is Cancelled Religious reforms under Cromwell included a stricter Puritan observance of Sundays and Christmas. This is alluded to in the last Chapter “Alexander’s Story” when Linnet delights in the stained-glass windows that were not destroyed by Cromwell’s Roundheads.

The Great Plague of 1665-1666  was the worst in London since the black death of 1348.  An estimated 100,000 Londoners died, as well as Toby, Alexander, and Linnet after the Boggis of that era returned from London.

For more context, see Education Sessions And Resources - The National Archives.


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