Ahoy there me mateys! Ever since I read the bear and the nightingale, I have been in love with this author’s writing. So while waiting for book 3 of that trilogy, I thought I would give her middle-grade novel a whirl because I don’t put age limits on reading. And this was a fun one.
This story follows Ollie who finds solace in being alone and reading in order to escape the pain of losing her mother. Then one cold day she goes to her favorite spot by the creek to find someone has gotten there first! An older woman is there raving about a book and is preparing to toss it into the water. But Ollie can’t let a book be destroyed and so she grabs it and runs. Curious about the book, she begins to read what appears to be a journal and becomes completely engrossed. But suddenly weird things are happening in her town that seem to mirror that of the book. Can Ollie solve the mystery before bad things happen to everyone around her?
I absolutely adored Ollie and her schoolmates Coco and Brian! I loved watching their relationships and beliefs about one another change because they are thrown together in their unusual situation. I also thought this was a poignant portrayal of loss and depression – both for Ollie and her dad. Ollie uses books to help her with her grief. It shows how two people can love each other and yet grown distance because of pain. I also loved her dad for his baking, paint choices, and silly jokes.
But the book does have its creepy moments with ghosts, getting lost, and an evil being. Oh and the scarecrows. I have never been one to think scarecrows were anything less than harmless. But I may have to rethink that sentiment and look over me shoulder whenever in a corn field. Eek!
I think this be a delightful book with wonderful themes and lessons. Don’t just take me word on it (though yer Captain’s word should be enough!). Check out these other reviews by me crew. Then go get a copy. That’s an order. Arrr!
Amy @ acourtofcrownsandquills – “But aside from the horror plot line, there were so many wonderful themes I appreciated. This story beautifully showcases the importance of friendship and teamwork. It’s about standing up for someone and caring for them in dire times. It’s about facing your fears while also coming to terms with loss and healing emotionally.”
Melanie @ meltotheany – “Small Spaces is Katherine Arden’s debut middle grade novel and I loved it so very much friends. Many of you know that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books of all-time, and even though these stories are nothing like one another, the beautiful writing, amazing characters, and important themes shine through. I went into this expecting a fun and spooky read (which it was), but what I also got was such a beautiful love letter to grief, depression, and trying to live in a world that has taken away someone who you feel you cannot live without.”
Side note: Anyone else super excited for the winter of the witch? I can’t wait. Arrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
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