THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET, by Lindsay Currie, Aladdin, Oct. 10, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
I love fall — the crunch of leaves, the golden light and the publication of spooky stories. But truth be told, a strong spooky story like Lindsay Currie’s The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street is worth reading any time of year.
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street stars 12-year-old Tessa Woodward who has just moved from deliciously sunny Florida to cold and dreary Chicago. Tessa doesn’t want to move, a feeling punctuated by a 19-hour drive in a minivan and the arrival at her family’s “new” 19th-century fixer upper.
Tessa’s trying to be positive for her dad, who is more than a little excited about his new position as concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And Tessa does try, but weird things keep happening, and they’re starting to freak her out.
First, it’s the flickering lights, then it’s blasts of cold air when the windows are all closed, and then mysterious drawings start appearing in Tessa’s notepad. When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes something or someone is after her. But who’s going to believe a 12-year-old girl who thinks her house is haunted?
Luckily for Tessa, her fears don’t throw off new friends. In fact, those fears intrigue them even more. With their help, Tessa just might be able to solve the mystery surrounding her house on Shady Street.
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street has a great ambiance to it. It’s a ghost story/mystery with a Wait Till Helen Comes/Nancy Drew feel to it. I love how the house feels every much a character as the people. The creaking floors, crooked painting and dank bathroom bring you straight into the room with Tessa.
There’s a lot to like beyond the mystery and spooky elements. Tessa’s relationships with her parents and friends add dimension. Tessa’s embarrassment over her mom and dad’s parenting style in particular hit all the right notes.
My one problem with The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street is the doll Tessa’s brother carries around. It’s one of those old-fashioned ventriloquist dummies. I’m not sure if young readers would even know what one looks like. Also, I’m having a hard time picturing a toddler lugging one around. Little kids do imprint on some weird stuff, but I struggled with this one.
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street is a fast-moving, compelling ghost mystery that middle-graders will love around Halloween (or anytime of the year).
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