Today I am delighted to share with Emma Carroll’s first novella for Barrington Stoke, ‘The Ghost Garden,’ illustrated by Kaja Kajfež. Regular readers to the blog will know I’m a huge fan of Emma’s writing so I’m thrilled that by partnering with Barrington Stoke her work will be accessible to so many more children. It’s June 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War. When Fran unearths a bone in the garden of Long Barrow House on the same afternoon that Leo breaks his leg, it triggers a series of unsettling coincidences that leave Fran cold. Roped into keeping wheelchair bound Leo company, Fran is forced to listen to his absurd theories about the looming threat of war in Europe. But as the pair uncover more secrets, the garden seems to be showing them threatening shadows of the future and Fran begins to fear what they’ll discover next.
I was lucky enough to have an early read of this compelling story and shared it with the year 6 children at my school and they were completed captivated by this eerie and atmospheric tale. Despite only being 85 pages, Emma has managed to draw together all of her trademark strengths: superb characterisation; well constructed historical settings and moving storytelling to create a truly remarkable story. Although our time with Fran and Leo is brief she still manages to convey all the uncertainty of the period perfectly and gives us a real insight into the character’s hearts and minds. For the reader as the story unravels it becomes more poignant as we know the dark times they will soon face. It’s this sense of foreboding mixed with superstition that make for a really impactful and spine-tingling story. Kaja’s illustrations capture this sense of unease and spookiness of this tale brilliantly. A book that deserves to be in every school library, another absolute gem from Emma.
Thank you to Kirstin and Barrington Stoke for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful book. ‘The Ghost Garden,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.