Friday, August 28, 2009
The Joy of Spooking: Fiendish Deeds
Spooking is the perfect place for Joy Wells. She is as easily creepy as the old neighborhood, obsessed as she is with the stories of E.A. Peugeot and forever sneaking out to walk through the cemetery and the bog dragging her brother Byron along with her. It’s too bad that the Spooking area is considered obsolete by the mayor of Darlington --the newer part of town. The Darlings as they’re called, like things clean, neat and in rows, and Spooking does not fit the mould.
One day when Joy and Byron are out exploring the Spooking bog in search of the bog fiend, they come upon an old woman foraging. She says her name is Madame Portia and she tells the children that she lives in the bog. Her late husband was a naturalist who studied the unique ecosystem. When she invites them home Byron has visions of child sized ovens, but Joy has no fear…even when Madame Portia’s house turns out to be a rat filled submarine shaped building on stilts.
Not everyone enjoys the bog like Madame Portia and Joy, however. There is a plan in Darlington to turn the bog into “The Misty Mermaid Water Park”, which means that Darlington would be creeping even closer into Spooking territory.
P.J. Bracegirdle has written a deliciously dark story filled with mystery, murder and fiendish characters. From the embittered Mayor’s assistant Mr. Phipps, to the dark hearted Guy Smiley character of the Mayor, adults are clearly not to be trusted. Teachers play popular favorites, and children are cruel. There is bloodshed in this title of the ends justifying the means variety. Bracegirdle takes on the sanitized version of life that suburbia has to offer with scathing results. After Mr. Phipps spends time in Kiddie Kastle (a themed birthday party place) he muses, “What a pathetic operation. A case of chicken pox would have been a more authentic medieval experience, and arguably more fun…” (p. 98).
Others have said that this series will appeal to fans of the Addams Family, Edward Scissorhands and the like. The Joy of Spooking has hit that rare place of appealing to tweens and teens both because of the smart writing, societal commentary and the fact that it’s creepy without straying into silly.
Fans of Basye’s (Heck) and of Bellairs (The House with A Clock in Its Walls, etc.) should be intrigued.