Q&A with the kiddo: A kid’s-eye view of The Haunting of Granite Falls by Eva Ibbotson

Book Review: The Haunting of Granite Falls by Eva Ibbotson


From Amazon:

American millionaire Hiram C. Hopgood will stop at nothing to make his daughter, Helen, happy—even if it means buying her an ancient Scottish castle and shipping it back to Texas. Assembling the castle isn’t a problem for the oil tycoon . . . it’s the ghosts that worry him. Hopgood has made up his mind: the ghouls have got to go. But these spirits don’t spook so easily. Instead, they make their way to America, where they meet up with a magical severed hand and three fiendish, cross-dressing kidnappers for a Texas-sized adventure with a ghostly Scottish flair.

Proudly presenting Q&A with the kiddo, courtesy of my 10-year-old son, in which I ask my kiddo to describe a book he’s enjoyed recently and he gives his opinions, more or less unfiltered by mom.

Without further ado:

Q: What book do you want to talk about?

A: The Haunting of Granite Falls.

Q: What was it about?

A: [Note: The kiddo didn’t feel like giving a plot summary, so here’s the mom version: An American millionaire buys a Scottish castle for his sickly daughter, has the castle shipped to America to be rebuilt in the heart of Texas, and unintentionally gets a handful of castle ghosts to go with it. Scottish orphan Alex and the millionaire’s daughter Helen form a fast friendship, and need to call upon the ghosts for help when a dastardly kidnapping plot threatens their safety. Much mayhem ensues.]

Back to the kiddo:

Q: Who was your favorite character?

A: The Severed Hand [a ghostly disembodied hand who haunts the local cinema and the mineshafts underneath]. He’s really fun, he can cook, he’s an author, and he’s also a Hand of Glory.

Q: Who else did you like?

A: Flossie [the ghost of a 5-year-old girl, currently wreaking havoc as a poltergeist]. She’s really funny, and she messes up everything.

Q: What was your favorite part of the book?

A: When all the action was happening [towards the end] in the theater and in the mineshaft. [Note: A scary kidnapping in the mines, a daring rescue by the ghosts, much chasing about, shouting, scaring, and… heroic ghosts!]

Q: How would you describe the book overall?

A: Lots of cliffhangers. A tiny bit scary. Mostly funny, silly, weird, and mysterious.

Q: Who do you think would like the book?

A: My friends. If you have a sense of humor, you’ll like this book.

Q: Did you think this was a good reading level for you?

A: There were some words I didn’t understand [Note: that’s where moms come in handy], but otherwise it was fine. I probably could have read it on my own but it would have taken a lot longer.

Q: Would you want to read more books by this author?

A: It depends what they’re about.

Q: Would you want to read more ghost stories?

A: Maybe. It depends what kind. If they’re scary, then I wouldn’t want to read them before bed-time. That would give me nightmares.

Mom’s two cents: This was one book that we both could enjoy. It worked well as a read-aloud, but a kid who’s comfortable reading chapter books solo should be able to handle this one just fine. The kiddo and I found The Haunting of Granite Falls to have just the right combination of funny elements (a Viking ghost named Krok Fullbelly is good for all sorts of laughs) and dramatic action. 12-year-old Alex makes a fine hero as well, a nice mix of sensitivity and loyalty, with a dash of Scottish laird in him as well. I was a bit uncomfortable with the bad guys, who were more seriously threatening than I typically expect in a book aimed toward ages 8 – 12; in particular, the ringleader, a woman with many awful traits, among them a fondness for souvenirs of Hitler, was especially distasteful. Still, the book overall was a success. Author Eva Ibbotson has a delightful writing style, humorous and exciting, that really appeals to my son and keeps me entertained as well. We both give this one high marks.

So there you have it. We’ll be back with more book opinions from my kiddo, whenever I can get him to talk books again.

Q&A with the kiddo: A kid’s-eye view of…

Book Review: The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

From Goodreads:

A forgotten door on an abandoned railway platform is the entrance to a magical kingdom–an island where humans live happily with feys, mermaids, ogres, and other wonderful creatures. Carefully hidden from the world, the Island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. A lot can go wrong in nine days. When the beastly Mrs. Trottle kidnaps the prince of the Island, it’s up to a strange band of rescuers to save him. But can an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey really troop around London unnoticed?

Proudly presenting Q&A with the kiddo, courtesy of my 10-year-old son, in which I ask my kiddo to describe a book he’s enjoyed recently and he gives his opinions, more or less unfiltered by mom.

Without further ado:

Q: What book do you want to talk about?

A: The Secret of Platform 13.

Q: What was it about?

A: The king and queen of this island had a child. It was the happiest day on the island. The three babysitters took the baby through the gump into the real world (kind of like teleporting). One of the girls got knocked out by car exhaust and a woman took the baby. Now the people on the island are trying to get the baby back.

Q: What’s the gump?

A: The gump opens every nine years and stays open for only nine days. If you step through, you go to a cove and can take a ship to the island. It opens at platform 13 at King’s Cross Station in London. There are ghosts who watch over the opening. If you go through and you don’t get back in time, then you’re stuck for nine years.

Q: What’s special about the island?

A: There are different animals and there’s a king and queen. It’s a magical island. There are creatures called mistmakers that makes mist when you play music, so when ships and planes pass by, they can’t see the island.

Q: How do they try to get the baby back?

A: The king and queen send a giant, a wizard, a fairy, and a hag through the gump the next time it opens. They think they find the right kid but he’s really just a spoiled brat.

Q: Who is your favorite character?

A: My favorite character was Ben. Ben is an honest boy who knows how to do work and is really cool. He is very nice and tries to help people but he’s also kind of gullible.

Q: How would you describe the book?

A: 4-star book. It’s funny and exciting.

Q: Who do you think would like the book?

A: I think kids my age would like the book if they like adventure stories, exciting stories, and cliffhangers.

Q: Are you glad you read it?

A: Yes, I am.

Mom’s two cents: We read The Secret of Platform 13 as a bed-time read-aloud, and it was quite a success. My kiddo was very involved and got excited about the story to the point that he was jumping in with comments and conjectures each time another plot twist was introduced. In my opinion, this was a nice option for a middle grade reader. The magical elements were fun, there was tension, drama and a little bit of menace, but nothing too scary. I was a little put off at first by the similarities in the early chapters to elements of Harry Potter (note: this one came first!), but fortunately the overlap didn’t carry all the way through the book and thus wasn’t too distracting. I had a great time seeing my son get caught up in this book, and I enjoyed it myself as well. All in all, a good choice for a mom/kid reading adventure!

So there you have it. We’ll be back with more book opinions from my kiddo, whenever I can get him to talk books again.

Coincidence at King’s Cross?

My son and I started a new book this week as his bedtime read-aloud. We’ve made it through about five chapters so far, and here are some key points:

  • There is a special platform at King’s Cross Station in London which leads to a hidden, magical world
  • Regular humans have no idea this magical world exists
  • Our hero is a nice boy being raised by people who are not his parents
  • He lives in the non-magical world, and doesn’t know that he belongs in the world of magic
  • He is not treated very well: he is considered the kitchen boy, works hard dawn to dusk, goes to a run-down, second-rate school, and sleeps in a cupboard
  • The favorite son of the family is a fat, spoiled boy of about the same age, who has a room overflowing with more toys and gadgets than he can possibly ever use or enjoy
  • The fat boy’s mom speaks to him in baby-talk (“Where does it hurt, my pettikins?”), sees him as sensitive and frail, and gives him everything he wants

Sound familiar?

Psych. This is The Secret of Platform 13, written by Eva Ibbotson, and published in 1994… which, by the way, is about three years prior to the introduction of the Boy Who Lived to the rest of the world.

Coincidence? I’m sure this was all hotly debated when Harry Potter first appeared in 1997 (so I’m a little late to the party). And seeing as I’m only about a third of the way through Platform 13, I’m in no position to state whether the similarities continue. It’s a little hard to believe that two different children’s authors came up with such similar elements within such a short time span without there being… oh, let’s call it cross-pollination.

I had a hard time buying it when the author of a bestselling series of vampire books claims to never have read any other vampire fiction. Really? Do you live in a media-less cave, perhaps? Of course, writers of children’s fiction read other writers’ works, and it’s natural to be influenced by what you’ve read, especially when it’s the good stuff. And as far as I can tell, based on the five chapters I’ve read, The Secret of Platform 13 is indeed the good stuff.

It’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out, and whether the seemingly familiar elements will continue to pop up. Somehow, I doubt that we’ll be seeing a wizarding school, a sport played on broomsticks, or a flying motorbike, but I could be wrong.