The Reason That I Read: Mary Downing Hahn 

Top down view of feet in sneakers, a muddy creek, and a man's face in the lower right corner

by Julie N.

I am excited to be able to host my favorite author at Central Branch on Friday, August 19 at 3 pm and to have the opportunity to celebrate her extensive career. She is a fan favorite, a kid favorite, and my favorite! Over the years, many students have been captivated by the stories she creates, the worlds she builds, and the magic in her words. Mary Downing Hahn thoughtfully weaves ghosts, history, and local places into her books.

As an awkward, homeschooled seventh grader I would hardly have called myself a reader. Far from it, in fact! I enjoyed looking at books, but to be honest I can name only a few that ever stood out to me as a child. While visiting the old Miller Branch, I found a book called The Wind Blows Backward by Mary Downing Hahn. Many of you probably know Mary Downing Hahn for her incredibly popular ghost stories such as Wait Till Helen Comes, Deep and Dark and Dangerous, and Took (also in graphic format), but I first fell in love with her realistic fiction. I devoured her adventures like The Spanish Kidnapping Disaster and mysteries such as The Dead Man in Indian Creek.

A boy with a flashlight stands on an open curving staircase, with a spooky hand reaching out of the shadows toward the back of his head. The

At some point, I tried one of Mary Downing Hahn ghost stories, Time for Andrew, and immediately bought my first bag of marbles. I quickly followed that with one of her most popular books, Wait Till Helen Comes, about a young girl at odds with her new step-siblings, a farmhouse complete with a backyard graveyard, and the ghost of a young girl named Helen. 

Mary began her career as an illustrator and a children’s librarian before, thankfully, directing her sights on writing children’s books. Her first book was published in 1979 and she has authored dozens of books since then. Most known for her ghost stories, she doesn’t shy away from writing genuinely scary books for children, and they love her for it! Notably, she has won more than 50 child-voted state awards for her work. 

I love reading her stories and recognizing the locations where they took place. Mary Downing Hahn is the author of the first book I loved and many more that followed. She is a valued author, a local favorite and she is, without a doubt, the reason that I read.

Julie is the teen instructor and research specialist at Central Branch.

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