Category Archives: Candlewick

Frightful Friday: Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured book is Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough:

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (July 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 076365808
  • Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Cora and her younger sister Mimi are reluctant to stay with their eccentric Aunt Ida, but their situation at home demands it. Ida doesn’t exactly welcome them with open arms, treating the girls as if they are a burden. She forbids the children from opening any windows or doors; these are to remained locked at all times. Cora believes her aunt to be a little batty. Little do the girls know about the history of the village of Byers Guerdon…

Cora and Mimi soon befriend Roger and Peter, two village boys, neighbors of Aunt Ida. They are granted a bit of freedom outside Ida’s home but they have been warned to stay away from the parish church building.  Roger and Peter have heard this warning most of their lives, so what do they do? They head to the church. After multiple visits to the church, Cora uncovers old letters detailing the history of the church, of Byers Guerdon, and the village legend of Long Lankin. She soon realizes she is in over her head, their very presence has awaken an evil that has remained buried for decades, an evil that has tormented her family for generations. Her anxiety is validated when she begins to hear voices, to see images of children in the cemetery. But it’s not she that Long Lankin is after…he is more interested in young Mimi.

Barraclough creates a delightfully chilling story of folklore and family curses in Long Lankin. I knew I was in for a treat after reading the chilling poem in the opening pages:

Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse,
Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss.
Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the hay.
Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned,
Except one little window,
where Long Lankin crept in…”

The poem of Long Lankin is a traditional poem based on an actual local legend, adding to the chill factor. Also contributing to this overwhelming feeling of dread is the setting. Ida lives in a village between a small stream that connects to the sea. At times, it is impossible to differentiate between the stream and the sea as they appear to be one. Additionally, Long Lankin is set in the 1950s, when there are no such things as cell phones and limited modes of transportation. The girls are secluded, miles away from any large pocket of civilization. Add a quirky aunt and a desolate landscape and you have the perfect recipe for a delightfully creepy horror story.

The author uses alternating points of view in this novel, allowing the reader to get the perspective of many of the main characters. The story starts from Cora’s perspective, then alternates between her, Roger, and Aunt Ida. This shifting point of view added to the overall dynamics of the novel allowing the reader to see all sides of the story, giving access to motivations and thoughts of each of the characters. I truly appreciated Cora’s perspective. At first, she starts out somewhat naive and a little annoying but is quick to act on her toes when that is demanded of her. Aunt Ida’s character is probably the one that develops the most, starting out with a mean, wicked old woman who slowly transitions into a caring, loving aunt.

I must say, the times when the characters recited the eerie little poem were the most chilling to me. Those of you readers who remember the Nightmare on Elm Street can remember the song children used to sing to warn of that terrifying monster. I felt the same level of fear reading about Long Lankin.

Ultimately, Long Lankin is a novel I believe would be appreciated by teens as well as adults. I only wish they had this sort of book when I was growing up! I think it serves as the perfect crossover from young adult horror to adult. Highly recommended!

More reviews:

A Patchwork of Books
A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Frightful Friday: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!

 

This week’s featured book is: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover:224 pages
  • Publisher:Candlewick (September 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0763655597
  • Source:  Personal copy

At 12:07 AM, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes up to find a monster outside his window. He’s not frightened, for this is not the monster he expected to see. He thought he’d open his eyes to see the monster from his nightmares, the one that has been haunting his dreams since his mother’s cancer treatments began.

The monster is an ancient one, existing for centuries. It wants something from Conor, it wants to tell him stories, in return to hear the truth from Conor. Conor, obviously, is perplexed by the monster’s requests. However, it continues to return nearly every night, at exactly 12:07 AM.

The stories the monster tells aren’t your average, typical stories. Of course, what would one expect from a monster? The stories the monsters tell are unique, each ultimately providing a valuable lesson. The monster attempts to impart to Conor the power of stories:

“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might reveal?”

“Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything.  If they carry the truth.”

 

The illustrations, combined with the text, portray a truly haunting story. Not haunting as in ghosts (or yes, monsters), but haunting due to how real, how honest they are. Conor, despite himself, is afraid to admit the truth the monster seeks.  He’s a young boy, living with his mother after his parents divorce. To him, his mother is everything he knows. A lot of weight has been placed on his shoulders.  To make matters worse, he told his one true friend about his mother’s illness, and the news quickly spread throughout his school. His teachers now coddle him, refusing to punish him. The class bullies now have yet another reason to pick on him. It’s not suprising that Conor feels the way he does. Admitting the truth is oftentimes difficult than living a lie.

Reluctantly, Conor follows the monster on this journey through stories. When it’s up to him to tell the story, to tell the truth, it provides him with a sense of relief, not dread. He had a punishment pictured in his mind, a punishment so severe it was difficult for Conor to accept. While honesty is sometimes more difficult than lies, the truth is certainly freeing. Through the monster, Conor learned that it is an individuals actions that truly portrays the integrity of that individual.

I cannot begin to describe how this book affected me, emotionally.  Perhaps it’s because I have a son Conor’s age. Nothing could prepare me for the emotions I felt as I read this book.  I can admit it; I sobbed. No, I take that back, I bawled. Not the quiet kind of crying, but the gasping for air, shuddering chest, sort of bawling.  At first, I cursed Ness for toying with my emotions this way. However now I commend Ness for this; the story he portrays is honest, not flinching. No light & fluffy stories, but pure, brutal, honesty.  While it did break my heart, it touched and warmed my soul as well.  And while it is heartbreaking, it is a book that should be read by all, a lesson that should be passed on to others. A truly powerful gift. Perhaps the most rewarding part of this book, a testimony to its greatness, is how each and every individual will get something completely different out of it.

One may ask why I decided to feature this as part of Frightful Friday? Well, the illustrations, first off, are pretty haunting:

 

Perhaps, even moreso, I chose to feature this book because it continues to haunt me, days upon days after reading it.

I implore you: GO OUT AND BUY THIS BOOK.  This is not a book you borrow, or check out of the library. It is one you must own, you must savor, and must never forget. HIGHLY Recommended.