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Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story

Mary Downing Hahn
Plot Summary

Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story

Mary Downing Hahn

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1994

Plot Summary
Mary Downing Hahn’s 1994 children’s novel, A Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story, features a sinister old house replete with frightening sounds and shadows, but it’s actually a story of time-travel, not ghosts. When twelve-year-old Drew Taylor arrives from Chicago to stay the summer in Missouri with his Aunt Blythe, her creepy ancestral home fuels his over-active anxieties. However, his fears soon come true. During the night, he is visited by a dying boy whose appearance is strikingly similar to his own. Drew agrees to help him, and so begins his journey toward greater confidence and courage.

Drew’s father is an archeologist. When his parents plan a digging excursion in France, Drew elects to stay with Aunt Blythe. Yet he has second thoughts upon arriving at her house. It’s a gloomy, long-neglected edifice, built in 1865 by Drew’s great-grandfather. Rights to the house have sparked family feuds through generations of Taylors. Blythe’s father – Drew’s great-grandfather – is the current resident, having purchased it from his brother’s widow. Blythe, who recently moved in to care for her father, who suffers from dementia, hopes to refurbish the place.

Drew enters the house reluctantly, trailing his parents and Aunt at a distance. Feeling lost in the dark entryway, he navigates a maze of empty rooms by following the sound of their voices. Drew approaches them unnoticed, as his father tells Blythe that Drew is “fearful… nervous… too much imagination…”



After a short time, Drew’s parents announce they must leave for the airport. Drew feels apprehensive and tearful but doesn’t want to cry, corroborating his father’s words, so he runs off to a nearby room. There he finds an old man in a wheelchair – his great-grandfather. With a frightened start, the ancient figure hisses, “You’ve come back […]. But it won’t do any good. It’s my house now, not yours.” Drew’s father arrives and rescues him, while Aunt Blythe calms her agitated father.

Drew is dismayed to discover that his guest bedroom contains a door to the attic. He moves a rocking chair in front of it, which Blythe notices without comment. The next morning, she suggests they explore the attic, hoping to allay Drew’s fears. They find old photos of the children who once lived in the house. Blythe identifies them as Drew’s great-uncle Andrew Taylor, Andrew’s older sister, Hannah, and younger brother, Theo. It’s striking how much Drew resembles Andrew. When Drew asks why Andrew appears in only a few photos, Blythe says he died during childhood.

Before leaving the attic, Drew stumbles upon a box of marbles bearing Andrew’s name and a warning to leave them alone. Thinking she might hawk them and use the money for house repairs, Blythe takes the marbles. Drew cautions her against it, fearful of Andrew’s warning.



That night, the boy from the old photos – Andrew – appears in Drew’s room, gravely ill from diphtheria. According to the doctor, he won’t live beyond this night, in the year 1910. Hovering between life and death, the twelve-year-old floats to the attic and finds his marbles gone. While confronting Drew about the theft, Andrew realizes he has traveled to the future. He convinces Drew to change places in time with him, so modern medicine can save his life.

Drew wakes the next morning in the same room, but in a different era. Hannah and his “mother” are fussing over him, giddy with joy that he has survived the night and seems much improved. Nervous and shy by nature, Drew can hardly speak, which is entirely unlike Andrew’s own bold and boisterous temperament. The family attributes this change in personality to the fever he endured.

Masquerading as Andrew creates challenges for Drew. Outside of Andrew’s immediate family, he doesn’t know who anyone is, and within Andrew’s 1910 world, he is unfamiliar with daily routines and how things work, generally. Luckily, everyone ascribes his confusion and uncharacteristic timidity to the effects of fever. Everyone, that is, except cousin Edward, who visits while Drew is “convalescing,” and challenges him with several questions. When Drew can’t recall the President’s name and mistakenly says there are fifty U.S. states, Edward gloats that the fever damaged “Andrew’s” brain.



Drew grows very fond of Hannah, his tomboyish older “sister.” They soon spend much of their time together, climbing trees and talking. One afternoon, John Larkin roars into the driveway in his father’s Model T. Hannah jumps from the tree, alarmed John will object to her unladylike behavior. He doesn’t, and this is the beginning of their romance. Drew is jealous of John, although he knows from Aunt Blythe’s short family history lesson that Hannah and John will marry.

Unfortunately for Drew, Andrew has a reputation for daring mischief (like tossing firecrackers in the outhouse) and scrappy fistfights. Because Andrew’s branch of the Taylor family inherited the ancestral home, Edward’s branch is resentful, and the rivalry provokes hostility between Andrew and Edward. Unlike Andrew, however, Drew isn’t eager to fight. When Edward bullies Andrew and Theo at the soda shop, and even tosses Drew in the air, Drew disgusts Theo by meekly accepting the abuse.

As weeks go by, Drew’s memories of his former life begin fading. Meanwhile, the real Andrew has recovered from diphtheria but doesn’t want to leave 1994. When they meet in the attic, as planned, Andrew challenges Drew to a marble contest called ringer. They’ll meet nightly to compete, and when Drew wins, he can return to 1994. While Andrew is a master at ringer, Drew knows nothing about it and recruits Hannah to coach him.



Before his bout of diphtheria, Andrew accepted Edward’s dare to jump off the railroad trestle into the river below. Now Drew, as Andrew’s double, finds himself on the trestle, terrified as he faces this “test of manhood.” When Edward slips and falls into the river, Drew plunges in without hesitation to rescue the struggling boy. Afterward, Edward falsely claims Drew pushed him.

Drew finally wins a round of ringer and returns to life with Aunt Blythe. He misses Hannah, however, so he’s thrilled when Blythe announces Aunt Hannah and Uncle Andrew, both in their nineties, plan to visit. Unbeknownst to Blythe, the visit is a joyful reunion between Drew, Andrew, and Hannah, who knows about the switch. Edward, Drew’s great-grandfather, is characteristically unpleasant. As they leave, Andrew entrusts Drew with his marble set.

Kirkus Reviews calls Time for Andrew “solid and enjoyable,” noting that “the sampling of past mores is as entertaining as it is instructive.” The book also includes a short guide to playing ringer.

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