Fifth and sixth graders who think they like scary books are going to clamor for this one, the first in a series of five, once they see the dark and foreboding moonlit cover, but let me warn you—it's really scary. Readers will not sleep at night if they’re foolhardy enough to open the covers after sunset. Thomas Ward, the left-handed 12-year-old seventh son of a seventh son, has the gift of seeing things that others can’t. With no more prospects in life than milking cows and spreading manure on his father’s farm, he quite likes the idea of becoming the apprentice to the Spook, a solitary old man who walks the County, protecting farms and villages from witches, boggarts, ghosts, and gasts. On his first day, Thomas must prove his worth. The Spook gives him a terrifying test—he must spend the night alone in the dank and grim haunted house at number thirteen Watery Lane, keep his candle lit, and find his way down to the cellar at midnight.
Tom's riveting narrative is probably far too chilling and gruesome as a read-aloud, but it flows elegantly like an old English folktale. At the back is his journal with secrets for survival, the notes he takes on how to bind a boggart, the four types of witches, and other useful information he learns firsthand, some of which he foolishly disregards, like never trusting a village girl with pointy shoes.
Reviewed by JF.
THEMES: ENGLAND. FANTASY. SUPERNATURAL.
Suggested Ages: 10 & up