Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Janet Fox
Illustrator: Greg Ruth
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Twelve-year-old Kat Bateson and her two siblings have been sent to a boarding school in Scotland to keep them safe from the Blitz, Germany’s bombing campaign against London during World War II. Rookskill Castle, reportedly haunted, is a crumbling manor house with strange-acting staff, glimpses of odd waif-like children wandering the grounds, strict rules, and a creepy dictatorial headmistress, Lady Eleanor. Things become frightening when the nights are filled with mechanical clanking, screaming, and students disappearing one by one. Kat and her siblings can't be sure if those at the castle are who they say they are. Lady Eleanor is becoming more strange, unreasonable, and scary each day. Mysteries abound and it is up to Kat to figure it all out before she disappears too.
Janet Fox has created one story taking place in 1940 and another in 1746. The book goes back and forth between the two often, creating a back story that explains current events. The reader can understand much of what is happening but Kat and her siblings and friends have to stumble around to find answers. Highlights of this book are Fox’s masterful descriptions of the castle and its surrounds and the illustrations done for every chapter. The cover art is suburb and sets the mood for the spooky tale. This book won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award Western States Division and Booklist Top ten books for youth in the Fantasy/Horror category in 2016. The book ends with a hint that a sequel could be forthcoming. It is appropriate in its scariness for middle school children and may keep readers reading into the night to see what happens.