Goth Girl: and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell
|Goth Girl: and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Completely silly but so clever with it, this book is always going to be more artful than its young audience ever suspects, and is all the better for it – proof that there is a wrong and a right way for an author to try too hard.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: September 2013|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
2013 Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist
Shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
It all starts with sigh, soft and sad and ending in a little squeak. But while some mice can end up roaring, so this book soon escalates from just meeting the ghost of a dead mouse to something much bigger. Through exploring the country pile Goth Girl Ada lives in with her father, alongside the ghost mouse, she finds an albatross, a Polar Explorer who might be a monster, and then a compact club of young people her age she had no idea existed. There's even more to be found after that, as Ada discovers how malevolent the party season's plans are going to get, with a nasty indoor hunt having some remarkable prey…
So the title is in fact quite misleading, and underplaying things. There is a lot more here, and it's all introduced with a whimsy and flippancy that is quite charming. In fact there are a lot of jokes and details that only the most intelligent child will get – literary references abound, with Shelley's Frankenstein having some connection to things, alongside more. Quirky jokes are here galore, on the most unlikely subjects (see the footnote – written by an actual foot – about the Salad Rocket), and there's a host of allusions to prove Riddell has done his work.
He's also put the hours in with his illustrative hat on too, and his pictures really bring to life the ridiculous world of the country house, and all its odd occupants. There is a small credence to be given to the idea the story doesn't hang together completely brilliantly, but it's well-paced, flowing well enough for earlier references to be brought back in joyously, and all done with a knock-about sense of 'anything goes' that only the curmudgeon will dislike.
It's a quite brilliantly presented book too – lush silvered cover, proper hardback binding with fabric bookmark, and a spoof of Gulliver's Travels added on as a seeming afterthought. While there is perhaps nothing to completely charm in the contents and make for constant rereading, there is as I say a sense that more will be 'got' with the passing years, and with the option to turn this into a big series I'm sure this will become a cherished book and will be opened more than once.
Some people can try to produce Gothic sensibilities on the page of young readers and only make them too modern. Some manage it much more successfully, but perhaps fail elsewhere. It takes much craft to produce a book as clever as this – it seems needlessly inventive at times, which I'm glad to report isn't a problem. It can break out of its target audience and be enjoyed by adults if they so choose, with all its subtle punning and references. Don't expect the mouse to do too much, but you can probably not suspect what depth there is to this fun little read.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
More light-hearted Gothic can be had with the whole series including Raven Mysteries: Flood and Fang by Marcus Sedgwick.
You can read more book reviews or buy Goth Girl: and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Goth Girl: and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.