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Ghost Garden - Emma Carroll, ill. Kaja Kajfez

This spooky little novella from Emma Carroll is the perfect dark Winter's eve mystery, and will sit perfectly alongside other creepy stories in my 'spooky stories' unit of work each year (recent additions such as Lucy Strange's Ghost of Gosswater and Phil Hickes' Haunting of Aveline Jones to give you a flavour), but would also sit well as a 'curveball' addition to a World War One topic, filled as it is with Emma Carroll's customary historical facts, but in the guise of a ghostly adventure!

Telling the story of Fran, daughter of the gardener at Longbarrow House, and a summer spent looking after Leo, encountering spooky and increasingly sinister occurences, it is a very enjoyable read, written in the author's (and indeed, publisher, Barrington Stokes') engaging, high-quality, accessible style.

Quite a short story, the reader is drawn into the events and character relationships quickly, and the pace of the story is fast. Events follow happen in quick succession alongside the parallel story (obsessed over by Leo and revealed through newspaper stories as the story progresses) of escalating tensions and the build up to World War One in Europe.

|Illustrations by Kaja Kajfez add interest and atmosphere to the story, too, and are of a quirky style that I'm sure readers will enjoy.

Characters such as the naughty twins, Jessie and Evan, friendly cook Millie, and quiet yet strong and brave female lead Fran lend a familiar feel to this story, as does the explore-the-garden-of-the-grand-house setting. Secret Garden and Skylark's War fans will not be disappointed with the vibe, and there is a lovely moral in the end as war looms (relevant in the current climate, too: 'difficult times are better faced together.'

Read the first chapter here (from Barrington Stole's website):

Thank you to one of my favourite publishers, Barrington Stoke, for the copy of this book to review...find out more about their brilliant books by following them on Twitter as @BarringtonStoke and through their website at:

Author Emma Carroll is on Twitter as @emmac2603

Find out more about illustrator Kaja Kajfez at

Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot on Twitter and Instagram) January 2021

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