by Brian Jacques
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Self-described "scalawag" Brian Jacques (venerable author of the beloved Redwall series ) sets out to spook young readers with six scary (but, of course, not too scary) tales, steeped in a mulligan stew of folk fables, ancient myths, and horror-flick fiends.
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The star of the sextet is undoubtedly Jacques' eccentric style--his diction, humor, and unmistakable brogue--which (in context) shouldn't give young readers too much trouble, and often makes for very-fun reading besides: "No, sir, I h'arrived too late. But I knows me rats, sir. If the h'Oriental chap says that's wot 'appened, then I'll back 'im h'all the way." Kids, of course, figure prominently in each story, too--whether as protagonists or as more scurrilous lads and lasses getting their well-deserved comeuppance. One such schoolboy causes much mayhem in the book's first (and by far best) story, in which an aspiring scoundrel named Archibald Smifft summons an occult creature, the Ribbajack, to do his evil bidding. Other stories riff off various other creepy creatures, from werewolves to ghosts to even Medusa, usually with some winking moral woven in by Jacques.
Some of the tales (the title story and "Miggy Mags and the Malabar Sailor," in particular) pack more punch than others, but there's more than enough fun here for a few late-night, flashlight reads. (Ages 9 to 12)