BY: GISELA WOLDENGA
During a visit to her grandmother’s house, Ellie notices a stone arch in the garden that she has never seen before. Curious, she steps through it and meets a boy, Orly, who has been waiting for her. He tells her that he was killed two hundred years ago, and he needs Ellie’s help to find his grave so he can go back to his village. Ellie knows that he’s a ghost, and she’s the only one who can see and talk to him. After hearing his story, she agrees to help, even though she has to go through many adventures. She’s not allowed to tell her grandmother about the details. Will Ellie succeed in convincing Grandma of her gift and giving the boy peace?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Beyond the Stone Arch by Gisela Woldenga, Ellie discovers a secret stone arch in her grandmother’s garden that leads to a forest near a village two centuries back in time. There Ellie meets Orly, a boy who was murdered two hundred years ago. He begs Ellie to find his grave so he can return to his village. In her quest to help Orly, Ellie has many harrowing adventures, putting her own life in jeopardy.
Well written, exciting, and fast paced, this is a mid-grade story that young people should love. Well done for this talented author.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Beyond the Stone Arch by Gisela Woldenga is the story of eleven-year-old Ellie who is staying at her grandmother’s house on vacation. In her grandmother’s garden, Ellie finds an old stone arch with a gate leading into the past. She hears a flute playing, follows the music through the arch, and steps back two hundred years in time. Orly, the young boy playing the flute, tells Ellie that he has been waiting for her for two hundred years as she is the only one who can see him, so she is the only one who can help him. Orly needs Ellie to find his body. He was murdered and he doesn’t know where they buried him. But even if Ellie can find out who killed Orly and where they buried him two hundred years ago, a lot can change in all that time, so will his body still even be there?
Beyond the Stone Arch is intriguing, charming, and full of surprises. Woldenga’s character development is superb and her plot solid. A great mid-grade story.
Eleanor, don’t go too far. Lunch is in half an hour.” Grandmother’s voice sounded serious.
Ellie stopped at the bottom step of the wooden stairs leading into the garden. “I’ll be back. I have my watch.”
If anyone called her Eleanor, she needed to listen. She checked her watch, a much-cherished present for her eleventh birthday. Eleven-thirty. Enough time to inspect the garden and maybe the grove of trees behind it.
Grandma loved her garden, her roses, beds of dahlias, pansies, azaleas, and some bushes that only bloomed in the spring. And a whole plot of vegetables. She had told Ellie that each plant family needed different treatment. Ellie thought that sounded like they needed a doctor. Grandma just laughed.
“Different food and different amounts of water,” she explained. “Like people.”
By now Ellie’s parents would be in Florida, visiting some long-lost friends. Ellie would have liked to go with them. But Mom said that they needed some time alone. That was okay, Ellie liked it here. She could roam around on her own, as long as she didn’t upset Grandma. Those were Mom’s and Dad’s orders. Ellie looked up into the oak tree. She saw a branch low enough to climb on, but not yet. She needed more time for that.
A little farther on she saw a wooden fence at the end of the garden. She noticed a break where another part of the fence should have been. Instead there stood a stone arch, overgrown with ivy. “Funny,” Ellie thought. “I’ve never seen that before.” She looked at her watch. Fifteen minutes. Time enough to investigate.
As she got closer to the archway, she heard someone playing a flute. Or was it a bird?
No, it sounded like a melody. Ellie brushed some of the ivy away from the entrance and peeked through. At first she only saw a grassy field with bushes. Should I step into it? she thought. This is probably just a left-over stone door from way before.
Again she heard the flute. “That music is so pretty,” she said to herself. “Who’s playing it?” Ellie took a few more steps onto the field and saw a boy sitting on a tree stump. He seemed to be absorbed in playing the flute and didn’t look up.
I’ll have to say something, Ellie thought. “You play really well,” she called. “What are you doing here?”
The boy finished the part of the melody, stopped and looked at Ellie. “It sure took you a long time to get here,” he said.
“What do you mean? I just arrived.” Ellie found his comment a strange way of greeting. “What’s your name? Mine is Ellie.”
The boy brushed some leaves off his green jacket, got up and straightened his brown pants. “I call myself Orly because it’s shorter than Orlando. I have been waiting for you, because nobody else wants to see me or talk to me.”
Ellie was puzzled. “Don’t you have parents or a grandma like me?” He is taller than me, she thought, maybe older, too. And he has blond hair.
Orly sat down again. “I used to—a long time ago.”
“So, are you an orphan? Where do you live?”
Orly picked up his flute. “You ask too many questions. You have to come back. Go, your grandma is waiting.” With that, he started playing again, the same sweet melody as before.
Ellie looked at her watch. Only five minutes to go. “Okay, I’ll see you a bit later.” Even if he wasn’t the friendliest boy she had ever met, he had piqued her interest. She needed to know more about Orly and his flute.
She rushed back through the garden and up the steps into the kitchen. Grandma smiled. “Good girl, you’re on time. Put some glasses on the table.”
Ellie couldn’t wait to tell her about her discovery. “There is this stone arch at the end of your garden. I went through and met a boy called Orly. He plays the flute and is an orphan.” She stopped to catch her breath.
Grandma sliced some bread. “What arch are you talking about? I’ve never seen a stone arch.”
“But you must have. It’s right at the end by the wooden fence.” How could she not, Ellie thought. Grandma has lived here all her life.
But Grandmashook her head. “You must have been dreaming. You used to see elves in the garden when you were little, remember?”
Ellie covered her slice of bread with butter. “Yeah, I know. But today I didn’t see any, only the boy. He plays the flute really well. And I have to go again later to see him. He’s all alone.”
Grandma looked at her. “After lunch you have to show me this arch. I wonder if you got too much sun.”
Ellie was happy. She couldn’t wait to see the look of surprise on Grandma’s face at the sight of the archway and the sound of Orly’s flute.
© 2019 by Gisela Woldenga