If you have ever seen, heard, or followed the twitter of Maureen Johnson, you know that she has a different way of viewing the world around her. If you haven’t read any of her books before, The Name of the Star is a good place to start. The story veers from a “normal” plot line of a girl from America going to a British boarding school in London when duplicate Jack the Ripper murders start popping up right around the main character, Rory’s, school.
But of course that’s not the only strange thing happening in this book. The night of the fourth repeat murder, Rory and her roommate sneak out. That night, Rory sees someone nobody else sees; now, she has become the only witness to these Jack the Ripper murders. She soon learns that it’s not that nobody was looking but that she was the only one around with the ability to see this man. Somewhere down the line, Rory gained the ability to see ghosts and now she has seen Jack the Ripper.
With chapters containing snippets from the press and police, this book has a feeling of a crime show mixed with a boarding school adventure mixed with ghosts.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson; Penguin; paperback $9.99; Ages 12+
Don’t miss the second book in the Shades of London series, The Madness Underneath, coming out February 26, 2013!
Over in the Hollow, by Rebecca Dickinson; illustrated by S. Britt (ages 3-6)
Based on the old Appalachian poem “Over in the Meadow,” Dickinson transforms the rhyme with a Halloween flavor. Vampires replace muskrats as they bite, witches replace crows as they zoom, and werewolves replace lizards as they howl. Because it’s a Halloween book the fun doesn’t stop at ten, but goes up to thirteen with skeletons, cats and ghosts getting into the act. Readers can easily say or act out the actions of each of the characters (well, maybe not the biting vampires). Filled with rich, lush illustrations that have the feel of picture books from decades ago, this is the perfect book to haunt your shelf this Halloween.
Over in the Hollow, by Rebecca Dickinson; illustrated by S. Britt; 2009;$15.99; Chronicle Books
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (adult book)
Adult readers, take heart. It’s not always books for children here at Hooray For Books! My pick of the day today is the newest novel by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. The two books aren’t related, except in that they are both a meditation on enduring love. Her Fearful Symmetry is a modern gothic tale filled with eccentric characters — two sets of dress-alike twin sisters and an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle-maker, for starters — and set next to a cemetery. The story unfolds as Julia and Valentina move into their deceased Aunt Elspeth’s flat (their mother is Elspeth’s twin Edie). The move from Chicago to London begins to drive a wedge between the twins, which only deepens as they communicate with the dead, take on inappropriate suitors, and plan their futures . The story is slow-going as the plot unfurls, but the pace picks up considerably towards the end. The dominant feeling of the novel is a restrained sense of foreboding, even throughout daily life, but Niffenegger also includes wonderful moments of humor, horror, poignancy, and hope. I enjoyed this book, and found the novel very well-constructed. It’s a delightfully creepy read and perfect for Halloween!
Time Magazine (overview)
The Guardian (long)
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, 2009, Scribner, $26.99