Imagine a wood in which children wander, but never return. Imagine a town which is used to weird things happening. Imagine you shouldn't leave your laundry out after six o'clock or terrifying things may happen...
The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J. Halpin is a mysterious and well-written children's book, full with dark twists, riddles and two thoroughly enjoyable main characters. Attracting with aggressively purple pages (not on the inside), this books holds even more than it promises from the outside.
Follow Poppy into the town of Suds where her quirky grandmother lives. She already stumbles into the first mystery on the train there. Or why would anyone leave a miraculously silken-bound empty book on the train?
Together with her obnoxious and fantastic new friend Erasmus, Poppy sets out to find out why children keep vanishing in this town, and why no one seems to particularly bother.
But not all vanish simply into thin air, some also return, bald and lifeless, unable to speak properly.
And does the vanishing of children really have something to do with all the peculiar rules Poppy's grandmother imposes, like
Lock away the sugar
Don't leave any laundry out after six o'clock
or, most importantly,
NEVER DUST THE WINDOW SILLS.
Wreathing their way through adventure, Erasmus and Poppy soon learn the awful truth why kids keep popping into thin air, their eyes wide as snow and their heads deprived of dreams. It has to do with an old legend, the river, which may be far deeper than anticipated, and the Peggs who come at night...
As an advocate for giving children more to chew than most people think possible, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was, surmising from the colourful cover, surprisingly dark and took a few even darker twists towards the end. I thought Halpin's way of describing the scenery and surrounding especially enjoyable and the main characters possessed wit, emotion and reliability. Even though the illustrations were not entirely up to my taste, they still added plenty to the story and make for a truly wonderful children's book.
Especially through know-it-all Erasmus, we learn a lot and are guided well through the adventure, but he is not all knowledge and superhero. One especially great feature of the book was what happened outside the adventure. Poppy's Mum died in a tragic accident and the relationship to her father has been strained ever since,so when he comes to visit many emotions stir up. Additionally, topics like bullying, well-known children's fears and authentic school yard banter sneak their way through the main plot and give the characters complexity and texture.
It seeps through the lines that Halpin is a fan of fairy tales and folklore, as it is very reminiscent of a more complex and darker fairy tale. The woods, the witches, the mystery, it's all there, entangled into a delightfully sinister story, combed with friendship and sprinkled with fantastic words and concoctions I would love to come up with, too.
In terms of age recommendation, I would say eleven years and upwards. Smaller children may find witches making masks from their victims' skins a tad too much and children vanishing forever are also part of the plot.
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