Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse Written and Illustrated by Chris Riddell

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Ada Goth sat up in her eight-poster bed and peered into the inky blackness.
There it was again.
A sigh, soft and sad and ending in a little squeak. Ada looked across the bedroom as she held up the candle and stepped out of bed.
Who’s there?’ she whispered.
Published by Macmillan Children's Books Sept 2013
220 pages in hardback edition http://www.panmacmillan.com/devpanmacmillan/media/panmacmillan/Books/width220px/goth-girl-1-978023075980001.jpg
Summary from Macmillan
Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. The two live together in the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Lord Goth believes that children should be heard and not seen, so Ada has to wear large clumpy boots so that he can always hear her coming. This makes it hard for her to make friends and, if she's honest, she's rather lonely.
Then one day William and Emily Cabbage come to stay at the house, and together with a ghostly mouse called Ishmael they and Ada begin to unravel a dastardly plot that Maltravers, the mysterious indoor gamekeeper, is hatching. Ada and her friends must work together to foil Maltravers before it's too late!
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Goth Girl is a beautifully produced book from Macmillan, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell with wonderfully Gothick illustrations and humour. The girl inside me craves the gorgeous Regency outfit on the cover – which sets the tone for the whole thing. 
We get oodles of black and purple and silver on the cover – with skulls. Even the pages have shiny purple edges. Inside there are plenty of highly detailed and ever so slightly ridiculous pen drawings – and any book that includes foot notes written by an actual foot is fine by me.
The reader also gets a tiny bonus book tucked in at the end. I won’t give spoilers – but save it till last because it will make more sense then. It’s also beautifully produced though in a different style to suit its author: in a lighter verse and comic strip combination. Charming.
The main story itself is great fun with a nicely judged mixture of peril, adventure and silliness. It will appeal to confident readers who will enjoy, ignore or search out the clever references to characters really rather like Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and other Regency celebrities. All very literary – but with plenty of action to keep it going (and the odd truly dreadful pun). 
The children are central to the action, the adults wonderfully overblown and memorable and despite being sort-of historical, the female characters are strong and not just part of the background. Huzzah.
If I had anything to remark on, it would be that I’d like to see some members of the Attic Club have more adventures. I rather hope there will be further stories from Ghastly-Gorm Hall.
This book will absolutely delight its intended readership – and certain adults as well! I am very pleasantly surprised that it is in the Costa shortlist- and I hope publishers take note. The future of the printed book lies in beauty and quality and individuality like this.

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