I will be writing a series of blog posts about the books I read with my 9 year old daughter. (I’m not going to discuss the books I read with my 6 year old son, unless you want to hear about how I had to insert dinosaurs and Transformers into the Velveteen Rabbit because the thought of a stuffed bunny coming to life was too boring).

I read my daughter Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when she was in Grade 1. Over the summer she read the next book on her own and I stopped reading to her at bedtime but she devoured books regularly. She’s in Grade 4 now and leading up to Halloween I thought she might like Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always, which was one of my favourite books when I was a kid younger.

ToA Cover

Ava went upstairs and came back down fifteen minutes later saying she didn’t like it. Then it occurred to me that the book might be too hard for her and that she didn’t understand it. I opened the front cover and realized that I was 19 when I first read it. I didn’t have any other Halloween appropriate books, so I said I’d read it to her.

Clive Barker, of course, is most famous for creating Hellraiser, but The Thief of Always was his first foray into writing for younger readers (Barker also illustrated the book). It’s about 12 year old Harvey Swick, an English boy devoured by “the great grey beast, February.” A mysterious stranger floats into Harvey’s bedroom and invites him to spend some time at the Holiday House, where every morning is spring, every afternoon is summer, each evening Halloween and every night is Christmas, where there is food aplenty and everything a child’s heart can desire.

At the Holiday House, Harvey befriends two other children, Wendell and Lulu who have been at the house for some time. Harvey spends a summer day reading comics in a tree fort, and for Halloween he becomes transformed into a winged vampire before receiving gifts for Christmas.


In the attic, while looking for costumes they find all sorts of children’s clothes. Out back is a dreary lake filled with large strange fish, an environment contrary to the idyllic nature of the holiday house. fishIt doesn’t take long for Harvey to realize that all is not what it seems and that they are trapped inside the Holiday House. Wendell and Harvey escape but nothing is what they remember it to be and they realize to make everything right, they have to return to the Holiday House and face the dark magic hiding at its heart. RictusI had forgotten how much I loved reading books out loud to Ava and how much I loved this book. Ava loved it too, there were so many nights when I’d finish a chapter and she’d beg for just one more. She reminded me of myself as a child and how I fell in love with stories too. She asked me why I stopped reading to her and I said ‘I thought maybe you were too big,’ and she said she missed me reading to her. So, now I see it as an opportunity to read books to her that might be a bit too old to read on her own or to try to give a different perspective on what a particular book might be about.

I’d given this book to many kids when I worked as a tutor, it was great for reluctant readers, but the thing is, I never had a follow up that worked quite as well. Any recommendations are welcome.

Coming up next : Shadow Shaper by Daniel Jose Older


2 thoughts on “Reading with Ava – The Thief of Always

    1. Hi Agnes, The Velveteen Rabbit is a lovely book. Certainly of its time, but timeless too. I’m trying to think of a what passage could be used in a wedding but I suppose there’s lots on love in there.

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