Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Dollhouse and The Clackity

I have WAY too many conversations with my students about the exact flavor of mystery and horror books they want. My students specifications have remained fairly similar over the years, so I look for books that reflect the sorts of things they want to see. There are plenty of great books that I don't buy because they would just sit on my shelves. Your students are probably vastly different, so take a look at these two horror titles and see how they would work in your library collection. 

Cotter, Charis. The Dollhouse
August 31st 2021 by Tundra Books (NY)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Alice's father has to cancel plans for a family vacation in 1997 to attend to business matters yet again, her mother says that she has had enough and is leaving him. She takes a job nursing Mrs. Bishop some distance from their home, and is allowed to bring Alice with her. The two take a long train ride to get there, and there is an accident close to their destination that leaves Alice with a concussion. Blackwood House is posh and beautifully restored, but somehow creepy. There's a housekeeper, Mary, and her daughter, Lily, who is 16 but developmentally delayed. Lily tells Alice that the house is haunted, and Alice wakes up thinking that a red headed girl is beside her in the bed. Alice is given to flights of fancy, and her mother is very upset at this outburst that woke Mrs. Bishop. As Alice and Lily explore the house, being careful not to break any of the valuable ornaments, they find a dollhouse that is a replica of Blackwood house and which has a number of dolls, including one that looks like the girl that Alice thought was in her bed. Soon, Alice is going back and forth between her reality and the reality of Fizz and Bubble, girls who lived in the house in the 1920s. There are some family tensions in the past, and tensions in Alice's family with her father. As secrets are revealed, will Alice be able to figure out the identity of the ghosts... or is she a ghost herself?
Strengths: Blackwood House was a great setting, and the story got off to a quick start, which is always good. It made sense that the mother took a nursing job away from home. This was set in 1997 mainly so that the timeline with Mrs. Bishop being a girl in the 1920s and a news correspondent during World War II would work. The fantasy element of Alice being able to go into her dreams was well done, and her head injury makes it possible that she is just hallucinating everything. Mrs. Bishop is ornery, but also has an interesting past, which we get to see lste in the book. 
Weaknesses: I was a bit unsure where this was set. Mrs. Bishop came from England, where there would be more trains. Maybe Canada? Lily's situation felt like it neede more of an explanation for her developmental delay.
What I really think: I seem to have a disproportionate number of creepy doll books, which are not as popular with my students as other kinds of creepy books. While I enjoyed this, I may pass on purchase. 

Senf, Lora. The Clackity
June 28th 2022 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor Lives with her aunt Desdemona after her parents' disappearance following a traumatic house fire when she was young. Blight Harbor is the most haunted place in the US, and has an interesting collection of witches and others who deal with darker magic. When Aunt Des investigates a local abbatoir (slaughterhouse) where a famous serial killer, John Jeffrey Pope, dispatched his victims, removing many of their fingers and toes, Evie has a horrible feeling and begs her aunt to leave. Of course, her aunt goes back and is spirited away by something evil. Evie is able to stay with the local librarian and friend of her aunt's Lily Littleknit, but has to deal with The Clackity, a desconcertingly strange force of evil that sends her on a mission through ghostly houses in order to retrieve her aunt. Will she  be able to save her?
Strengths: This book has captured the attention of many trusted reviewers like Kirkus and has gotten a lot of love. Certainly, there are lots of gruesome elements, like the haunted slaughterhouse, historical serial killer, and headstrong heroine who must face her own fears that will speak to readers who like scary books and the setting reminded me a bit of Perez's 2008 series Dead is the New Black, which was popular for a while in my library. The illustrations are stunningly creepy, and including illustrations in books is something I would like to see more. The Clackity is chillingly odd, and the quest takes Evie through a weird fantasy world. This reminded me slightly of the new Every Bird a Prince
Weaknesses: There was an odd veneer of twee on this, with the Blight Harbor setting, the names, and even The Clackity itself. I'm trying to decide if this makes it feel more or less scary. There was also a scene in the library where Lily is reading the latest best seller at her desk during work. Are there any librarians out there who ever have time to read on the job?  
What I really think: Fans of quirky horror with a fairy tale feel superimposed over some gore, like Scary Stories for Young Foxes will enjoy this one. 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:38 AM EDT

    Thank you! :-) I wish you would write a book about what kids like....