mysteryisleskyeMystery on the Isle of Skye by Phyllis Whitney, 1960.

Cathy MacLeod has lived with her grandmother for years, ever since her parents died when she was very young.  Now, her grandmother is very ill and will probably have to live in a nursing home.  Cathy needs to find a new place to live, and her relatives are debating about who is going to take her.  So far, the only relative who has offered her a home is Aunt Bertha.  Cathy isn’t enthusiastic because Aunt Bertha only has a tiny apartment where she lives alone, and she’s only offering Cathy a home out of duty, not real affection.  Aunt Bertha hasn’t spent much time around children and doesn’t really understand them.

But, there is one other prospect.  Cathy’s other relatives, the Corbins, are taking a trip to the Isle of Skye, where Cathy’s grandmother came from originally, and her grandmother has arranged for Cathy to go with them while Aunt Bertha is on a business trip.  Uncle Jerry (Cathy’s mother’s brother) and Aunt Lila Corbin have two boys of their own, Don (who is about Cathy’s age) and Humphry, who goes by the nickname of Punch.  Cathy is happy about the chance to go with them to visit the island that her grandmother has told her so much about.

At first, Cathy feels a little awkward around the Corbins because she doesn’t really know them, and they don’t know her.  Aunt Lila is warm and welcoming to Cathy, but Uncle Jerry is a tease.  Don is a tease as well and very impatient with the whole idea of the trip.  He doesn’t care about the history or legends of Skye as much as Cathy does.  His only real interest is in photography.  Young Punch is friendlier, sharing the excitement of the trip with Cathy.

Before they left on the trip, Cathy’s grandmother gave her a mysterious box to take with her.  Cathy doesn’t quite understand it at first, but the box contains several smaller packages with instructions to open them at different times during the trip.  Some of the instructions are vague and force her to rely on other people to tell her when to open them and what to do with the contents.  The packages are part present, part “spell.”  Thanks to them, Cathy makes new friends in Skye and goes on an adventure that she will never forget.  Cathy’s grandmother has a love of legend and mystery, and these special gifts are meant to serve special purposes: to acquaint Cathy more with her past on the Isle of Skye and share some special memories, to heal Cathy’s sadness, to help draw her closer to her other relatives, and perhaps, to help her find her way to a brighter future than the one she currently thinks is waiting for her back home.

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