I suspect that we all have experience of houses that are run-down, creepy and have stories told about them. I still remember as a child a house, on my walk home from town, that we had been told was inhabited by a witch! Needless to say we always walked on the opposite side of the road, even though we never saw this person.
In this wonderful story we have the same concept. The children are the central characters and they comprise of two families, Claude and his young sister Amity and his best friend Deliah, but we also have new friend Sam, who manages to create friction in the group. At a family gathering before Claude and his family move away, the children are sent out to play and Amity runs off into the local Badwell wood; this is a place of rumour and tragedy, with tales of disappearing children, which explains why it is out of bounds. When the others follow, they find the dilapidated remains of a house, which had been empty since the 1930s. The front door is wide open, so they go in, hoping to find Amity and then the door closes behind them. This is when everything starts to go wrong as they can’t get the door open and the house almost seems to be playing tricks on them. Now, the three children have to try and find Amity and then get themselves out of the house. What follows is almost like an Escape Room challenge as the children find clues, many of which revolve around the original disappearance of the last owner’s daughter in 1930. Will the young people escape and what mysterious forces are working against them? Importantly do you believe in ghosts and spirits?
Well, whilst this is a story for middle grade readers it is still aiming at sending a shiver down the spine, and it achieves this brilliantly. We start off with the frictions between the young people and this is so central that it almost lulls us into a sense of false security. However, the author very slowly builds up the tension and gradually introduces more and more elements that make you desperate to get out of the building. This really is a wonderfully sinister tale of the supernatural and it is going to be a brilliant introduction to this genre for the primary reader. Linked to this we have the more recognizable issues between siblings and friends as they inevitably grow and change over time. The old saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd” definitely seems to be the case at the beginning of the story, but as things develop, the young people learn that they have to work together if they actually want to achieve their aims. I love the way that the children learn from their adventures and that they are not two dimensional characters, making us feel more invested in their stories. Thank you Emma for a truly spine-chilling story.
Once upon a time (in school), Emma was told she had to choose between being a scientist and a creative but deep down she knew she could be both.
Her favourite things in the world are: badges, Death On the Nile (1978), hats, foxes, deserts, desserts and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She’s not sure which holiday is best – Halloween or Christmas (she loves all things spooky, but also presents and singing Christmas carols.) Her one regret in life is never having trained to be an astronaut.