The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll and Kaja Kajfez
|The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll and Kaja Kajfez|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A spooky story of what potentially is buried bad news about the future, designed primarily for dyslexic readers but more than good enough for us all to want to see a copy.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 96||Date: January 2021|
|Publisher: Barrington Stoke|
|External links: Author's website|
Fran, the gardener's daughter at a posh country house, is worried. She's just cracked her garden fork through quite a grim discovery - a large bone, buried under the potatoes. But she's even more worried when she learns that that event coincided with Leo, the older child of the house, breaking his leg while playing cricket on the lawn. She is due to get even more worried when she finds something else that also seems to foretell a surprise. Tasked with shoving Leo around the grounds in his bathchair, she might have reason to be out of her mind with fear, when she learns what he is seeking - a long-forgotten burial chamber. But surely that won't act as a premonition to anything - not here in the sultry, summery days of 1914?
My proof copy of this alerted me to the author being the Queen of Historical Fiction. But I don't think you can really call this a historical book, despite the obvious remoteness of the time it's set. It does show some tension amongst families as the newspapers report more and more depressing events in Europe, leading up to the Great War, but any educational side here is a firm second in the priorities - or even third, if you focus on the final paragraph's sentiment. What it clearly is is an exploration of the supernatural. And borrowing from a kind of Stone Tapes sensibility (where the environment, landscape and buildings seem to store psychic energy and present a kind of message from beyond in spooky ways) this is a damned good supernatural story. The key scene and the build-up to it are marvellous, and it's not just the intended age range for this book that will wish to be reading this backs firmly to the wall and with someone else in the house.
And so, with this being a Barrington Stoke volume, we do have to discuss age ranges. To the uninitiated, Barrington Stoke provide specialist books for specialist audiences without ever once pretending that there's anything detrimental about that. This will be a book looking like any other, to someone passing by its reader, and nobody need be any the wiser that it's designed for dyslexics and people with any other variant of reading disability. The person absorbed in these pages will see they have a lemony tinge, a thicker stock than usual, and quite a large, confident (and confidence-giving) font, which are all to aid the less competent fiction fan. The data for this book suggests it stands as a potential choice for anyone with a reading age of eight, and gives us content to entertain anyone at any age bracket above that.
And being six times that, I can attest to the power of this book. The child-friendly macabre is there from the very first line, and in fact might get a little too much for some sensibilities. It reads perfectly easily, and never once has the dusty, stuffy feel of the typical story set on a country house's lawns and gardens. Not for the first time recently I might wonder if the ending is a little too open, and it did feel to me as if it twisted the moral onto the page when a young reader might seek more definitive answers to their questions, but boy, the times Fran and Leo share together will stay long in the memory.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
It's been too long since we've been privy to a full-on tale of the supernatural from this house - we might have to look as far back as Grave Matter by Juno Dawson and Alex T Smith, nearly four years prior to this Ghost Garden entertaining us.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll and Kaja Kajfez at Amazon.com.
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