by Chris Riddell
Published: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: Children's Fiction
Source: own book
Ada Goth lives in the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall. She is the only child of Lord Goth, who is "mad, bad and dangerous to gnomes." Her father may be quiet and elegant, but he is also a bit of a jerk because he believes that children should only be heard and never seen. He has Ada wear large clunky books so that he can always hear her coming. She only sees him once a week for tea. The household staff is busy attending to their work and for some reason they have a hard time holding on to governesses, even though Ada is actually a very sweet child.
So, she leads a rather lonely life until the day she meets a ghostly mouse called Ishmael. Thus begins an adventure where Ada gets some new friends and begins to unravel a dastardly plot that Maltravers, the cadaverous looking indoor gamekeeper, is hatching.
The actual plot is rather undemanding and somewhat short, but the story is full of over-the-top characters and fun literary references, like Mary Shellfish and "What happens in the Attic Club stays in the Attic Club." The real treasure is the intricate artwork in the book, just like with the Ottoline books. I really enjoyed the story, it was quite fun to read and would be fine for younger children, as the "gothic" elements of the story are quite straightforward and not scary. There are ghosts and monsters, but everything is treated as if this is totally normal. I can see re-reading the book just to look at the pictures again.
Inside the back cover is a "Free Teeny-Weeny Book" - tucked into a pocket is a version of the mouse's memoirs, a rodent version of Gulliver's Travels written in verse.
The book is so lovely I had a hard time letting my son borrow it to read. I wanted to stick it up on a shelf where it would be safe.
I also found out (when I got the book) that is has won the Costa Children’s Book Award for 2013. And ooh - neat - I found Chris Riddlell's website for this book (http://www.panmacmillan.com/gobstoppers/chrisriddell).
I rate it four claws. My son is reading it now (he practically pulled it out of my hands when he saw it and the moment I set it down - I hadn't actually finished it by the way - he grabbed it and ran off with it. I had to steal it back to finish it) and I am really interested in what his verdict will be.