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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

5.0 1
by Janet Fox

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An eerie gothic fairytale with a World War II setting and magic at its heart-- and the recipient of four starred reviews and multiple honors.

Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson believes in a logical explanation for everything. But even she can't make sense of the strange goings-on at Rookskill Castle, the drafty old Scottish castle-turned-school where she and


An eerie gothic fairytale with a World War II setting and magic at its heart-- and the recipient of four starred reviews and multiple honors.

Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson believes in a logical explanation for everything. But even she can't make sense of the strange goings-on at Rookskill Castle, the drafty old Scottish castle-turned-school where she and her siblings have been sent to escape the London Blitz. What's making those mechanical shrieks at night? Why do the castle's walls seem to have a mind of their own? And who are the silent children who seem to haunt Rookskill's grounds? Kat believes Lady Eleanor, who rules the castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must face the truth about what the castle actually harbors--and what Lady Eleanor is--before it's too late.

Selected for the Spirit of Texas Reading Program, a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and more, this tale of magic and power has charmed readers everywhere.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 01/04/2016
In this intricately plotted thriller from Fox (Sirens), the stalwart Bateson children have more to fear from Lady Eleanor, headmistress of their new boarding school in Scotland, than from the bombs of the 1940 London Blitz. Evacuated with two younger siblings to live in a distant relative’s castle, 12-year-old Katherine has only her father’s parting words, her great-aunt’s parting gift of a silver heirloom chatelaine, and fellow student Peter for support in a terrifying battle against evil forces set loose 200 years earlier. Warnings of frightening nighttime noises and disappearing children quickly come too close for comfort, and the quartet’s certainty of a Nazi threat sets them on a trail of discovery and misdirection. Initially grounded in logic and her father’s teachings, Kat’s faith crumbles against disconcerting evidence that, in this castle, magic is real, nothing is what it seems, and a Voldemort-like villainess must be destroyed. True-to-life protagonists, the skillful interweaving of flashbacks and the chatelaine motif, a masterful final encounter, and a satisfying denouement attest to Fox’s craftsmanship. Ages 10–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

* “Wonderfully written . . . Readers will curl up and keep the lights on with this chilling page-turner.”—Booklist, starred review
* “An original, clever, page-turning adventure.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “In this intricately plotted thriller . . . . True-to-life protagonists, the skillful interweaving of flashbacks and the chatelaine motif, a masterful final encounter, and a satisfying denouement attest to Fox’s craftsmanship.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

* “ Fox works a spell of her own, pulling her audience deep into the increasingly nightmarish tale, while creating a stout-hearted heroine who isn't afraid to trust her own mind.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Fox’s story of intrigue and magic is enticing from page one . . . a fascinating and wonderful read.” —VOYA

“[A] cleverly-crafted thriller . . . readers who enjoy historical fiction, science fiction, or horror will not want to miss this book!”—School Library Connections

“An enchanting, ghostly story that had me in its grip until the last page. With her courage, strength, and intelligence, Kat Bateson will become one of the great literary heroines. I rooted for her right through the last page.”
Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of The False Prince
“With nods to Narnia, Harry Potter and The Golden Compass, Janet Fox has created hair-raising suspense and drama. My heart is still pounding from this action-packed, imaginative read!”
Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky
“Chilling, creepy, charming . . . a delicious read, full of twists and turns and writing that soars right along with the rooks outside the castle walls.”
Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor-winning author
“Fiendishly addicting, with as many twists and turns as the sinister castle that conceals the charmed children and the chilling evil that first ensnared them.”
Julie Berry, award-winning author of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
“A new classic: a terrifyingly irresistable mystery, full of danger, magic, and adventure.”
Nikki Loftin, author of Wish Girl and Nightingale’s Nest

VOYA, February 2016 (Vol. 38, No. 6) - Kaitlin Malixi
Set in London in 1940, Katherine “Kat” Bateson and her siblings are sent to boarding school as their father is off in the midst of the war and London continues to suffer bombings. Before their departure, Kat’s Great Aunt Margaret gives her a chatelaine with supposed magical powers. It is only upon arrival at the new castle in Scotland, where the children will attend school with a witchy and bewitching Lady Eleanor, that Kat realizes that the magic may not be foolish child’s play after all. Fox’s story of intrigue and magic is enticing from page one. Chapters about Kat’s time in the castle (and the curious things that happen there) alternate with chapters that provide background on the ghost-like children haunting the castle and the devilish Lady Eleanor, once Lady Lenore. As far as villains go, Lady Eleanor is terrifying, cold, and wicked, everything one could desire from such a character. The story is thoughtfully constructed and the description of the Lady in the moonlight is enough to induce nightmares similar to those poor Kat experiences. There are a number of characters and the jumping in time can be slightly confusing at times, but all around, it is a fascinating and wonderful read. This would be a great addition to any collection, particularly for fans of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or Madeleine Roux’s Asylum. Reviewer: Kaitlin Malixi; Ages 11 to 18.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
To insure that the three Bateson children are safe from the Blitz in 1940’s London, their father has made arrangements for them to attend the Children’s Academy at Rookskill Castle in Scotland. A great danger awaits them at the castle, however. Lady Eleanor’s dark magic threatens to take their souls just as she has stolen the souls of other children through the centuries, using the charms on her chatelaine (“an ornamental appendage worn by ladies at the waist”). Both literally and figuratively, she loses a piece of her humanity with each soul that she takes. Before leaving for the castle, Kat Bateson, the oldest of the three children, is given a chatelaine by her great-aunt Margaret, who tells her it is magical. Kat, who is adept at math and logic, must use all her strength, knowledge, and newly-discovered magical skills to overpower Lady Eleanor before she takes Kat’s soul. Meanwhile, the children of the castle discover a Nazi spy is in their midst. They race to uncover his identity before he absconds with Lady Eleanor’s magic chatelaine. A strong sense of place, vivid characters, and spine-tingling suspense pervade this story of good versus evil. Children disappear, the wind howls, and strange noises come from the walls. Since her father works for the British government, and Kat’s human hand has been replaced with a powerful metal one, perhaps we will see a sequel. A fine mixture of historical fiction and fantasy. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo; Ages 10 to 14.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—The Nazis have begun bombing London. Katherine Bateson's father is sent off on a highly secret mission, and her mother decides that Katherine and her siblings should go to the Scottish highlands to escape the dangers of the German bombers. Before she goes, Katherine's great-aunt Margaret gives her a farewell gift: Margaret's chatelaine, an ornament worn by women. As the Batesons and other children arrive in Scotland at Lord Gregor's manor, recently converted to a school by the lady of the house, Katherine immediately realizes something is amiss. She and the others fear that a Nazi spy has infiltrated the castle, and they decide that he must be stopped. Then Lady Eleanor turns out to be more than she seems, and the lady's chatelaine is revealed to be magical. Katherine also learns that she and the other children are in grave danger. Fox presents readers with a wonderfully paced, exciting story with enough twists to keep the pages turning. VERDICT The strong female lead and adventure on every page will keep any reader entertained from the first page to the last.—Wayne R. Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy Library, Houston, TX
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-11-25
During the Blitz, 12-year-old Londoner Kat, along with two younger siblings and an American boy, is sent to a distant relative's Scottish castle, where they confront evils both old and contemporary. Though Lady Eleanor claims to be starting an academy in her castle and has hired faculty to attend to the curriculum, it's soon clear that none are what they claim to be. The old castle keep is burned out, and the newer part seems to have weird twists and turns, secret doors and strange goings-on, including several ghostly children. Clues multiply early on that Eleanor is the same woman for whom the creepy, unnamed village magister has replaced living parts one by one over decades, each given in payment for a charm for a child's soul. Kat's father—now away working for MI6—is a watchmaker, and Kat has his gift for numbers, gears, and puzzles. Witchy magic, Nazi menace, and clockwork all come into play, along with an Enigma machine and spies for both the Allies and the Nazis seeking occult sources of power or protection. After the breathtaking climax, various threads of the story are tied up in a drawing-room denouement in which the characters decide to dispose of toxic magical artifacts rather carelessly—though in a way that invites anticipation (and fortuitously leaves room for sequels). An original, clever, page-turning adventure. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.50(d)
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

“Look,” Amelie said. “Come and look.”

Ame stood at the window, staring out into the garden. Kat moved to her side.

The view was toward the back of the castle. The fog had lifted into a gray autumn sky. The garden was barren and cold, the annuals gone and the shrubbery bare twigs. Some patches of early snow showed in the hollows, but the ground was otherwise bare and brown. An allée of trees stretched in a narrow band toward a woodland; beyond the farthest edge of woods Kat thought she saw a thin sliver of silvery water. That way was southeast, toward the North Sea and the continent.

Toward the war.

Toward Father, who was there, somewhere across the water, in danger but doing what he must.
The woods, the rough coast, the moors beyond were treacherous and would be an easy place in which to be lost, especially in fog. There was no need of a castle moat, no need for shuttered gates. They were all here until the bitter end, and Kat swallowed the lump in her throat. She touched the cold glass with her fingers before she turned away.

But Amelie tugged at her sleeve. “No. Look.” Ame pointed down into the near garden. Kat leaned against the glass to see.

Straight below them a small girl with blonde hair sat on the stone edging of an empty round fishpond. How Kat hadn’t seen her right off was a mystery. A hound dog circled the girl and nosed the grass at her feet. As Kat watched, the girl reached into the rocks and lifted something out, and for an instant there was a flash of silver in the child’s hand. Kat blinked and rubbed her eyes.

The girl held nothing.

“She’s wearing a summer frock,” Kat murmured.

“She’s catching fishes,” said Amelie.

“Ame, that pond is dry, silly.” But the girl dipped her hand into the dry rocks again and again, and each time, something fishlike shimmered in her hand and then winked away. Kat shuddered.

“I feel so sad for her,” said Amelie, leaning against the window, fingers splayed on the glass.

“She’s lost something. Can you see it, Kat? She’s looking for something in the pond.”

Kat took her sister’s hand. It felt so cold, Kat had to rub Ame’s fingers between her palms. “You have a kind heart, Ame.” But a vague uneasiness stirred inside Kat.

The door burst open behind them. “Kat!” Robbie fell into the room, Peter on his heels, Robbie’s eyes like saucers. “Kat! You won’t believe it. We found a secret hiding place. A hidden room. With something—or someone—locked inside that makes terrible shrieky noises.”

Kat looked at Peter, who nodded, then back at Rob.

He was white as the cliffs of Dover. “Sure as sure,” Rob said in a low voice, “sure as sure, it’s a ghost.”

Meet the Author

Janet Fox is a former teacher and a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of the award-winning Get Organized Without Losing It, written for middle-school children. She has written three young adult novels, Faithful, Forgiven, and Sirens. She is a graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Janet lives with her husband in the mountains of Montana.

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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
EmilieSG More than 1 year ago
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle was an atmospheric, exciting mystery compete with suspense, danger, and magic. It would definitely appeal to older elementary and middle school readers. Between a spooky castle, gloomy Scottish moors, a sinister school head-mistress, and the threat of nazi spies, not to mention an ancient charm/curse, there is quite a bit to keep a reader interested and hungry to keep reading. I certainly recommend this book to young readers looking for an eerie adventure with a healthy dash of magic.