44 pages 1 hour read

Mary Downing Hahn

Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1994

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Summary and Study Guide


Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story is a gothic middle grade novel written by Mary Downing Hahn and published in 1994. Hahn is known for incorporating elements of the thriller and gothic genres into stories for young readers. This novel follows 12-year-old Drew as he spends the summer with his Aunt Blythe and an irritable great-grandfather in their creaky, shadowy ancestral home. When a dying boy who looks strikingly similar to Drew mysteriously appears in the attic, Drew switches time periods with him, traveling back into the past in order to save the dying boy’s life. The two then become stuck in each other’s time periods and must learn how to adapt and grow in order to switch back for good.  

This guide refers to the 1994 paper-over-board edition as published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Plot Summary

Drew, a sensitive and anxious 12-year-old from Chicago, dreads spending the summer with Aunt Blythe and his great-grandfather in the family’s ancestral home in Missouri. As soon as he arrives at the spooky, derelict house, Drew notices a mysterious white apparition in an upstairs window. Though Aunt Blythe is a friendly and welcome presence, Drew’s great-grandfather treats him with disdain, seemingly confusing him for someone else. Drew tries not to cry as his parents leave for an archeological dig in Paris.

Drew discovers a staircase to the attic and ventures upstairs with Aunt Blythe. When his foot falls through a plank weakened by dry rot, Drew discovers a bag of marbles hidden under the floorboards. Though Drew has a bad feeling about taking the marbles, Aunt Blythe pockets them, planning to sell them to fund house renovations. That night, a ghost that looks shockingly like Drew wanders down the stairs coughing and searching for the missing marbles. Drew recognizes the boy as Andrew, a relative who once lived in this house and died of diphtheria in 1910. Realizing that modern medicine could save Andrew’s life, Drew and Andrew switch places. Drew wakes up in 1910, surrounded by Andrew’s family and siblings, Hannah and Theo.

Drew struggles to adjust to life in 1910 and learns about Andrew’s bold and mischievous personality. He befriends Andrew’s siblings Hannah and Theo and begins to grow more self-assured. He also encounters Andrew’s cousin Edward, a conniving bully who goads Drew and threatens him constantly. Everyone is surprised to see how Drew takes Edward’s abuse without fighting back like Andrew would have.

Meanwhile, Andrew receives life-saving treatment in the modern day and begins adjusting to Drew’s life. When Drew returns to the attic to switch back, Andrew challenges Drew to a game of marbles. Andrew says that only when Drew can beat him at marbles will he switch back. Andrew turns out to be an expert marble player, trapping Drew in the past. The two boys plan to meet and play daily until Drew wins or gives up the desire to switch back. Hannah begins teaching Drew to play marbles every morning so that Drew can improve enough to win against Andrew and return home. Drew grows much closer to Hannah and starts feeling jealous whenever she spends time with her beau, John Larkin.

The stakes rise when Edward reminds Drew about a long-standing challenge to jump off the train trestle above the river. Drew learns from Andrew that Edward had challenged him to do this dangerous jump, and he will have no choice but to do it. Drew tries to convince Andrew to forfeit the marble game, but Andrew refuses.

Drew grows bolder and begins to wonder whether his personality is merging with Andrew’s. He discovers that some of his memories are fading and being replaced by Andrew’s memories. The day arrives when he must face Edward on the trestle. Theo accompanies him, hoping Drew will get the better of their bully cousin. Edward thinks Drew will be too scared, but Theo goads him. Edward lunges for Theo and loses his footing, falling off the trestle into the river below. Drew realizes that Edward, a weak swimmer, will drown, so Drew bravely dives into the water to drag Edward to shore. Edward ungratefully threatens to tell his father Drew pushed him, and the two boys fight. Drew lands a strong punch and gives Edward a bloody nose. Crying and complaining, Edward runs away to tell his father.

Though Drew is punished, he feels empowered by finally facing Edward. Meanwhile, Andrew has grown homesick for his siblings and cries when they can’t see him in his ghostly form. Drew finally beats Andrew at marbles and returns home to his own time. He checks the graveyard to see what became of Andrew and discovers that he did not die in 1910.

An elderly Hannah pays a visit to the house with a surprise guest: Andrew. Andrew reveals that the summer he met Drew really did save his life. He got the idea to become an archeologist from Drew’s parents and became a softer, more sensitive person after spending time in Drew’s life. Alternatively, Drew feels ready to face the bullies in his own life thanks to Andrew’s influence.

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