Ten years ago I reviewed The Screaming Staircase and wrote: This new series from Jonathan Stroud is the first since the Bartimaeus Sequence which sold over six million copies, and was translated in over 35 languages. The fact that Universal Studios has already picked up the film rights to Lockwood & Co. is an indicator of the enthusiasm this new series should generate. And now this terrific series is set to become the next Netflix sensation for kiddos.
After a decade it was just as enjoyable to re-read in it’s new dress and, once again, I have every confidence that your avid readers from about mid-primary upwards to secondary will thoroughly enjoy it – provided they’re not too squeamish about some pretty fearful ghosts *grin* and love some humour, even if it is a little grotesque at times.
If you still have not read this fab series, I ask ‘why not?’. Stroud’s writing is always classy and original so very much worth your own time as well as some solid promotion for your readers. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what’s been made of it for a viewing audience. Bring it on Netflix I say!! Australian release on 27th January! yay!
Highly recommended for your readers from around 10 years up.
ISBN: 9781760654153 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Distributor: Walker Australia Binding: Release Date: April 1, 2022
Australian RRP: $17.99 New Zealand RRP: $19.99
Allison Rushby has repeatedly proven her gift for suspenseful spookiness for middle-grade readers and this new book, in my opinion, might just have tipped the scales of my favourite so far. Eleven-year-old Lolli (Olivia) has never known her mother, who died when she was just three months old. She knows that her mum had some mental health issues and a difficult life but that’s about all she knows. She’s been raised by her mum’s friend, Freya, somewhat by default really, but that hasn’t stopped the two developing a bond as close as any biological mother and child would have. Their other much-loved family member is Freya’s great-aunt, Elsie, owner of an extraordinary old house in Spitalfields, London.
The house is a museum that’s not a museum really. It’s an installation – a theatrical set, if you will – where each room reflects a different period of history, and how it might have looked when occupied by family. For the many visitors who come to see it, especially at Christmastime, it is a thing of wonder and joy. For Lolli, it is the source of nightmares. She knows that as a baby she screamed if taken into the house, and she remembers only too vividly her last visit when the ‘thing’ swooped down her and almost crushed her. Now Elsie needs her help, and Lolli must overcome her fears and panic, control her mind and bring all her energies to bear to solve the ages-old dark secret of the house.
Readers will absolutely love the slow reveal of clues and facts that help us to follow Lolli’s thoughts, and her reflections on her own life and her connections to both people and the world. As with Allison’s other books, the creepiness is at exactly the right pitch – enough to scare a young reader deliciously but not leave them traumatised. Parallel to the exquisite ghost story, is a warm and wondrous take on family, and what it means to each of us, whatever our circumstances.
For those who know my own, I read this paragraph and got very teary – as the seventh anniversary of my girl’s passing was last week, and The Kid’s 17th birthday is this week – and for this one passage I truly thank Allison for her words which are so applicable in our context.
“Your mother was a good person, [Lolli]. And don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. All she’d want for you in this life is for you to be a good person too. That you are always brave enough to be your best self. That you strive to do the right thing. The good thing. The loving thing. The helpful thing. The kind thing. That’s exactly what your mother would have done herwhole life long if the world hadn’t broken her first.”
I was interested to read Allison’s notes at the back of the book and learn of the inspiration for the house in her story. You can read more about Dennis Severs’ House and understand the fascination for so many. For me this is exactly what ‘museums’ should be like – they should be living things as much as possible. [I don’t want to see a discarded object with a card tag attached to it, lying pointlessly on a shelf. I would much rather see it in its ‘actual’ setting! Canterbury Museum in NZ remains firmly in my memory after visiting when I was about 13 or so for the amazing Christchurch St collection and more.]
This is just one utterly fab read! – a little bit of history, a lot of creepiness, a bit of angst, a lot of love – all in all, a perfect package for any reader from around an astute 9 years up to 13 or so. I highly recommend it to you and I know I am looking forward to book talking it with my Year 7s before the holidays.
Here is the third in George’s Survival Guides and it’s not just in our house that each has been so anticipated. This one is totally going to tick boxes for a lot of your readers – and dare I say it, the geeky, the preppers, the curious, the sceptics and the ones who just love weird. In fact, kiddos that would feel very comfortable meeting George himself for a good chinwag as he is so adept at putting the Style into eccentricity – and that is totally a compliment! I couldn’t get the Human Body Survival Guide away from the Kid and this one will be even more firmly held in her grasp (or at least bookshelf). Not for nothing, has she faithfully absorbed the X-Files and anything else supernatural she can find – although I have to say, our foray into ‘yeti sighting’ territory around Noosa and the information that there were serious ‘spotters’ did make her laugh a lot!
George tackles all things spooky in this new guide from UFOs (oh yeah, Roswell rocks!) to Nessie, ghost-busting to spirtualism, the power of the mind and ‘other random weird stuff’. In other words, there is something to intrigue and fascinate just about every reader, no matter their preference in freakish encounters, events or experiences.
I have done a very successful unit of work with Year 8s exploring cryptozoology so this is not just a topic or, indeed, a book just for a primary audience (clearly the Kid confirms that). I have successfully recommended the two previous books to reluctant boy readers, who have come back for more (so come on George, I’m going to need more than three please!).
I’m still dipping in and out of it – which is definitely part of the huge appeal of these books. The design of information being well broken up into fact boxes/files, diagrams, tables, snapshot case studies, dot point lists and ‘post it’ notes is a complete winner and ensures accessibility for any reader. And the cleverness of each book being a different colour theme (yellow, then orange, now lime green) is inspired (plus they look really stunning on your bookshelf -or would if they stayed there long enough).
Love it – a LOT! and I highly recommend it for your readers from curious 8-year-olds up to…well, adults really.
Thanks for another cracker George – I did promise I would write this wearing a foil helmet for protection and then discovered, I’ve run out! I’m a bit anxious that this will not be a secure alternative – please advise!
Without doubt books for young readers which invite the children to become part of the whole experience of text and illustrations are far and away the most popular in any setting, in my experience – just think, Herve Tullet, Beck & Matt Stanton, the simplicity of Spot or the stories within story of The Jolly Postman. Add to that fun, the joy of being in on the secret – that which is hidden from the character/s in the book itself and now, you are getting close of why this new picture book is going to make your little kiddos lose their minds with the fun and excitement of discovering theghosts in the spooky house.
A little girl lives in a gloomy atmospheric house, beautifully rendered in mixed media illustrations. She knows about ghosts because she’s heard of them but doesn’t know what they might look like or if they are even real. Some people say they are covered in white sheets…….or at least are white with sort of black holes for eyes. Do they hide in corners or under couches? Where would you look if you wanted to find one?
Cleverly interspersed are transparent tracing paper pages which turned back onto the illustrated spread, reveal the spirited spirits who are taking such mischievous delight in hiding from the protagonist.
I showed this to the too-cool-for-school teenaged Kid this morning and even she exclaimed ‘Oh that’s so cool and fun!’.
So take it from me, this one is a winner – and you may well need at least two copies as it’s going to be in high demand! Highly recommended for some fun and laughs, for readers from around Prep to Year 2 or 3.
Bahahaha! Love this promo!! Well played Oliver Jeffers!!
Whatever it is you might expect to happen after your death it is not likely to match Lauren James’ latest supernatural thriller. Harriet Stoker has been raised strictly, protected and, truth be told, controlled by her grandmother since both her parents died of an unexplained food poisoning episode.
Now Harriet’s at university and enjoying her first taste of relative freedom. In the pursuit of exceptional images for her photography assignment, Harriet has broken into the derelict building that was Mulcture Hall. The long-abandoned building was once filled with the bustle of uni students until a mysterious event caused the simultaneous deaths of dozens of them.
As soon as Harriet, feeling daring and intrepid, forces her way into the grim ruins of the former boarding house she begins her search for her interesting shots. Working her way up the dark staircase she suddenly and shockingly catches her foot and falls – into the void created by five stories of nothingness.
So Harriet dies on the mossy concrete floor of an old student hall with a huge hole in the back of her head…and ‘wakes’ up to find herself surrounded by other students. There is just one problem. These other students are all dead as well. They are the ghosts of those who died in the mysterious event years earlier. Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah are just a few of the ghosts of Mulcture Hall but they are the ones who try their best to welcome Harriet and help her find her way in the confusion of her new afterlife. Her disbelief quickly turns to rage and when she discovers that each ghost has a special power, she is determined to unleash her own no matter the cost to return to the life left behind. The chaos Harriet creates is nothing compared to that in store when much older entities and powers than hers are set free.
Narrated in turn by each of the main ghostly characters as well as an unknown voice whose identity is shrouded until the very end this is both gripping and intense. Each of the characters is dealing with unresolved issues, some from their living days and some acquired since and their long friendship becomes severely tested as they bear the impact of Harriet’s heedless actions.
This masterful paranormal narrative will hold readers spellbound as the intricate plot unravels exploring themes of love, loyalty, courage, sexuality, lust for power, revenge, deceit, greed and self-sacrifice.
ISBN: 9781760650797 Australian RRP: $16.99 New Zealand RRP: $18.99
I absolutely loved my first introduction to Flossie Birdwhistle in The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery and was so excited to read her next adventure, though I’ve had to wait a while. Let me say right now, it was worth the wait. Allison Rushby has once again transported us not only in time but also dimension as we enter the twilight world where Flossie has such a huge responsibility.
It’s now seven years or so after the war in which Flossie played such an important role. The help she had from her nemesis Hugo Howsham, who was a temporary ally, has almost been forgotten. Indeed, now it seems far away when Hugo manoeuvres himself into a position of power by acquiring three of the cemetery keys, his own and two more. He’s not just after Flossie’s key but is determined to master all seven for the seven cemeteries in the ring around London.
Flossie feels overwhelmed and has little idea how she can possibly outsmart and outplay Hugo particularly when the rest of the turnkeys seem to be feeling very resentful of her ineptitude over the key dilemma and the revelation of her secret association with Hugo in the past.
But this determined guardian of her departed is not alone. Her reunion with her much-loved maid Daisy laid to rest in another graveyard, the support of her older sisters who now rest in her care, her Advisor Hazel and eventually the rallying of the other Turnkeys enable her to thwart the despotic Hugo’s plans, at least for the time being, and further to ensure the safety of her mother, her only living relative.
These are just the most marvellously imaginative narratives filled with historical and geographical information about the London of the past and its society. There has not been one reader in my library to whom I have pressed the first book upon who has not come back thoroughly hooked and wanting more. I am well pleased I will be able to recommend this second as highly.
Certainly we will now be waiting for the further adventures of Flossie who no doubt will need to once again engage all her skills and the combined talents of her twilight friends to block any dangers to her resting charges.
Simply splendid for readers from around ten years upwards.
I absolutely loved Begone the Raggedy Witches which was the first in this trilogy so was pretty chuffed when this second instalment arrived. The Queen and her raggedy witches have been routed and Mup’s Ma is the new queen having taken her rightful place in the strange new world in which the family finds itself. But things in Witches Borough are not yet safe. The long cruel reign of the old queen has left many festering wounds among the people and more, the ghosts that inhabit the castle. One in particular possesses a terrible magic which threatens to overturn the new order and destroy Mup and her family.
The little grey girl ghost proves to be elusive as well as intent on destruction, and Mup along with her friend Crow are in grave danger as they attempt to uncover both her hiding place and her motives. While Ma tries to placate the remaining witches and clans, Mup is faced with harnessing her own newly discovered powers in order to thwart the ghost’s intentions and right ancient wrongs.
This is an intriguing narrative and though often seriously creepy will have the lovers of such spooky magical tales fully entranced as they follow Mup’s unravelling of the sad and heinous history of her grandmother, the old queen. Readers will find themselves urging Mup to keep up her courage, protect her family and to not succumb to the terrors the ghost produces.
Highly recommended for stout-hearted readers from around ten years upwards.
ISBN: 9781408887066 ISBN-10: 1408887061 Series: The Dundoodle Mysteries Published: 1st May 2018 Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Archie McBudge has lucky underpants. He knows he does because he and his mum have just discovered that Archie has inherited a huge mansion, a famous sweets factory and more from his Great-Uncle Archibald. What makes this even more astonishing is that neither Archie nor his mum even knows the old man existed until this moment.
Anyone might think this is a recipe for a very happy ending with a full stop but not so as Archie discovers that there is definitely something sinister, spooky and even supernatural going on at Honeystone Hall. Luckily his new albeit odd friends Fliss and Billy are ready and willing to help Archie unravel the complexities of flying letters leading to cryptic clues, strange artefacts, and horrible twin Piglet cousins not to mention finding the secret ingredient on which McBudge’s famous fudge depends.
Lots of fun for readers from around eight years upwards. There will be plenty of laughs as well as a few creepy moments – just the right balance of both!
Check out David O’Connell’s webpage here for more information, teaching notes and a fun activity pack.
ISBN: 9781406357127 Imprint: WALKER HARDBACK Australian RRP: $19.99 New Zealand RRP: $22.99
Coming hot on the heels of my review of Michael’s ‘Such Stuff’ is this absolutely beautiful short story/novella which is both poignant and thrilling. And of course, now I also want to know the ‘prompt’ for this particular story.
A family is on their annual summer holiday on the Cornish coast in the same cottage in which they always stay. As usual the secluded little beach is all theirs and for the entire stay, Cherry the youngest in the family has been vigilantly collecting perfect pink cowrie shells and stringing them into a ‘giant’s’ necklace much to the amusement of her four older brothers.
On the last day of the holiday Cherry is short of her target by only about a hundred shells and knows that she can achieve her goal. Knowing the child is safe on the beach the family go back to pack up ready for the next morning’s departure leaving Cherry with her fixation.
But when the weather turns bad and the sea turns worse Cherry is cut off from her usual path home. At first she is frightened but realises she should be able to climb the cliff to safety. A strange light from a cave attracts her attention midway and she finds herself in an old copper mine where two old-fashioned Cornishmen are working away. They sense her distress, warm her and comfort her and eventually the younger man leads her to the surface and she is able to find her way home.
No spoilers here – to find out the twist in the tail/tale you will have to read it for yourself.
Beautifully presented in a small hardback with stunning illustrations and delicious glossy pages, this is a treat for the senses.
Highly recommended for readers from around nine years up.