While best remembered for her science fiction novels for young readers, Andre Norton wrote all kinds of books, including fantasies like this one. The octagonal house featured was a popular if unusual style in the nineteenth century, and it seems likely Norton based hers on a real one.
Lorrie Mallard’s parents are dead, and the grandmother she loves and has been living with had to go to England to help another family member, so Lorrie has been parked with an aunt she doesn’t like so well and sent to a school where the other children make fun of her and tease her. Her walk to school takes her past an intriguing octagonal house, and Lorrie meets the inhabitants one day after rescuing their black kitten, Sabina. The cook and housekeeper, Hallie welcomes her, and takes her to meet the house’s elderly owner and other inhabitant, Miss Ashmeade, who seems to have sprung from a past century, like her house. Miss Ashmeade is unable to walk well, and keeps busy doing needlework, which she soon begins teaching Lorrie. She sends gracious notes home to Lorrie’s aunt, who then allows her to visit regularly. While in Octagon House, Lorrie has magical adventures sparked by a dollhouse replica of the place and a rocking horse that sends her back in time to meet some of the past inhabitants, and take part in their troubles and trials, which often involve helping the poor and unfortunate find safety. Back with her aunt, Lorrie learns a new highway is planned that will require the destruction of Octagon House. What can she possibly do to stop it?
I liked this book when I first read it as a teenager. I still do, though now the plot seems more predictable. Still a good read and recommended.