Review also includes:
Book 2: The Sword in the Grotto, 160pp, 978-0747583479
The first book in this series introduces Araminta Spook – a little girl who lives in a haunted house with her uncle and aunt, a couple of ghosts and the usual collection of bats and spiders. Aunt Tabitha puts Spook House up for sale, but Araminta doesn’t want to move and attempts to deter potential buyers with a series of Cunning Plans and an Awful Ambush.
The Sword in the Grotto develops the three characters introduced at the end of the first book, and provides Araminta with a new friend called Wanda to share her adventures. In this story the girls go in search of an ancient sword. They get horribly lost in secret underground passages, and end up trapped in a cave with no way to escape unless they are rescued before the tide comes in.
The striking cover design of both books is sure to attract younger readers to its pages – while inside Pickering’s delightful illustrations provide an imaginative and welcome lift to the stories. Sadly, the first person narrative fails to draw the reader in and Araminta’s voice does not carry the story with as much excitement and suspense as a book about haunted houses, ghosts and scary goings-on should. Undoubtedly, the young heroine will appeal to girls in the 8-10 age-range but this series is unlikely to attract much interest from boys.
Reviewing the books on the strength of the narrative alone I would have given a ‘fair’ rating, but the excellent illustrations deserve to be acknowledged and boost the overall quality rating to three-stars.