Fox, Janet. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
March 15th 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Kat and her brother and sister are sent away from London to Scotland, where a distant uncle lives. Their father is often away doing mysterious things, and their mother is trying to survive the Blitz. Scotland is damp, dark, and spooky, and their uncle is gravely ill, so they are met by his wife, Lady Eleanor, who is beautiful but creepy. She has opened a school for children who are escaping the cities and has engaged teachers for them. Kat finds many odd things, from the nightly infusions of drugged cocoa to the ghostly children who seem to wander about the grounds. Along with brother Rob and an American boy, Peter, Kat tries to investigate the creepy castle as well as the disappearances of several children, including her sister. Lady Eleanor's plans are told in alternating chapters, so the reader knows her evil intentions, even if it takes Kat a while to figure out exactly what they are.
Strengths: This was really quite a masterful Gothic novel. It reminded me a little of The Snowstorm as well as The Little White Horse. This had all of the elements that a Gothic mystery needs-- absent parents, creepy relatives, run down castle, children left to their own devices. I enjoyed it tremendously.
Weaknesses: My students are not fond of historical Gothic novels. I'd like to say that I could hand this to readers who like Mary Downing Hahn or Dan Poblocki, but it's got a different flavor to it.
What I really think: May have to buy a copy; at least it will be a book that sticks around for years and years, and the occasional reader will pick it up.