1958 novel by Catherine Storr, originally published by Faber and Faber, and then taken on by Puffin. It frightened the living daylights out of me when I was read it by a primary school teacher at the age of eight.

Marriane gets sick, so sick she cannot leave her bed. She has a governess who comes to teach her, and tells her of the other children she teaches. Marianne is interested in one of them in particular, a boy called Simon, whose legs don't work properly. To stop her from becoming bored, Marianne's mother gives her a work-box to look through, and in which Marianne finds a short, stubby pencil - the kind that won't rub out properly. Marianne draws a picture with it - a house, with four windows, a front door, a lazy curl of smoke rising from the chimney, grass all around it. She adds a little fence, and some misshapen stones. That night, when she goes to sleep, Marianne dreams.

She is outside the house that she drew, trying desperately to get in.

When she wakes up, she's not quite sure what to make of her dream. She draws a face in one of the upstairs windows - if she dreams again, maybe he will be able to let her in.

The second dream is as upsetting as the first. She is still stranded outside the house. The face at the window, though, belongs to a boy called Simon. He would come down and open the door for her, but he is unable to walk. He is as trapped inside as she is outside.

In desperation, when she wakes up, she scribbles out the face in the window, hard. She raises the fence so that it looks more like a prison perimeter-fence. She puts a single eye in each of the stones to guard the boy inside. This time, when she dreams, she is inside the house - able to talk to Simon, and to see him properly (although his window is now barred and dark) - but as trapped as he is. And the stones are slowly creeping towards the house.

Utterly terrifying, especially to an eight year old.

The story becomes centred on the escape from the house, to a lighthouse which Marianne has included on the horizon. They have to cycle there, so Marianne has to help Simon get better: the stones are afraid of the light from the lighthouse (they all shut their eyes), so, when the beam sweeps, they will have time to make a dash for it. When they get to the tower, they realise that they are safe, but that the journey is only just beginning - they need to get down to the sea...

Marianne is tempted to see a link between her real situation and the situation in the dream - maybe Simon has dreams just like hers. Miss Chesterfield, the governess, is used to link Marianne and Simon in real life, but, enigmatically, we are never really allowed to connect the two Simons very firmly. Catherine Storr manages to talk about some really powerful ideas without ever getting too obvious or too blunt, the strongest being that our imaginations construct our own prisons for us.

Simon, at the end of the book, decides that a helicopter would be the best thing to get them to the beach beneath the cliff. Marianne can't draw helicopters, so, instead, and in a beautifully postmodern moment, she draws the pencil (The Pencil, as it is referred to) into her picture of the lighthouse. The following morning, after the next dream (I won't give it away), the pencil has vanished.

The book was turned into a film, a few years ago, called Paper House. It was billed as a horror film: in trying to make it really scary, they managed to cut out all the psychologically horrific stuff from the book and replaced it with some sadly rather lame ideas about Marianne's father - no stones, no big fence... It was still an unsettling film, but not a patch on the book, which is very chilling indeed, at times.

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