Thursday, July 22, 2021

Dark Waters (Small Spaces #3)

Arden, Katherine. Dark Waters (Small Spaces #3)
August 3rd 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Even though Ollie, Brian, and Coco are no longer besieged by scarecrows of Small Spaces, and have fought off the Smiling Man in Dead Voices, they are still wary of things that go bump, especially in the day time. After spending some rainy days at Brian's family's inn, the group is looking forward to a brief boat outing while Coco Zintner's mother is interviewing Dane Dimmonds, who runs a tour boat on Lake Champlain that specializes in local history, especially about the mythical serpent, Champ. The kids, along with Ollie's dad, Mr. Adler, and Ms. Zintner, pack their bags and set off on their adventure. When they meet Mr. Dimmonds, they are surprised to find Phil, a school mate, there. Phil is Dimmond's nephew, and helps out on the boat. He was also involved in the terrifying bus trip, and claims not to remember the scarecrows, although he does admit to having horrible nightmares about them. He has also been less than kind to the other kids, especially Ollie, and admits to Brian that he has met someone who matches the description of the Smiling Man in town. Since there was a strange, blackened circle with mysterious words on it left at Brian's inn, the children are already on edge. The boat trip starts out okay, but when Phil is fishing, he catches a small sea serpent, and the voyage takes a disastrous turn. Mr. Adler prevents Phil from getting bitten, but sustains a wound himself. Mysteriously, the engine on the boat goes missing, and the boat starts to fill with water. The kids and Ms. Zintner manage to save Mr. Adler, but Mr. Dimmond is carried off by the water. The group ends up on an island that hadn't appeared on any of the maps, and must try to survive the cold temperatures and lack of radio contact while dealing with Mr. Adler's wounds. There are plenty of creepy things on the island: a forest of hanging fishhooks, abandoned snake skins, and a creepy cabin with the skull of "Tommy" that a crazed, axe-carrying man seems to think is still alive. Could these two be connected with the early 1800s ship, the Goblin, that disappeared in mysterious circumstances? Ollie's biggest concern is saving her father, and since all of the bad things that happen to the group seem to be connected to the Smiling Man, will he somehow be involved with the group's plight?
Strengths: For whatever reason, my students LOVE murderous ghosts, scarecrows, or other paranormal creatures. I'm sure they will be onboard with murderous sea serpents and ghosts of sailors! I love the way Arden takes perfectly benign, pleasant scenarios and gets us all cozy around the fire before making everything slide sideways into terror! It's like plunging into a cold pool on a really hot day-- all the more shocking! Mr. Adler is a great character, and his injury is used to great psychological effect as well; Ollie has already lost her mother, so she doesn't want to lose her father, who has stepped up so well to try to fill in the emptiness in Ollie's life. Phil's appearance, and his experience of being involved with the scarecrows, adds another layer of interest. I enjoyed the fact that lots of Vermont-specific background is included; Robert Frost's poetry, Lake Champlain, and (of course) Champ!
Weaknesses: We didn't see as much of the Smiling Man in this one, and I would have preferred seeing the group deal with his oily evil rather than the spirit of ancient mariners. This ended a bit abruptly, so I'm sure that this character will play a larger role in the next book. 
What I really think: My students will be waiting in line for this new installation, and I can't wait to see how the story wraps up in the summer installment. What a great way to structure a series around the seasons, and four books is just the right length. Perfect for fans of the new crop of middle grade horror like the work of K.R. Alexander and Joel Sutherland, and Hermon's Hide and Seeker, Currie's Scritch Scratch, Lawrence's The Stitchers, Brown's The Forgotten Girl, and Ireland's Ophie's Ghosts

Ms. Yingling

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