For decades, Old Gregory has been the county's resident Spook and protector; but now his time is coming to a close. To replace this aging guardian against evil, 30 apprentices are tested. Twenty-nine of them fail; some flounder; some flee; some even perish during the trial. Only one remains: Thomas Ward. Timid and uncertain, he worries that he might not pass his test or perhaps not even survive. Joseph Delaney's suspenseful second novel has pulse-raising potential for middle-grade readers.
A boy apprentices to the village Spook, who keeps the farms safe through supernatural means. "Expert storytelling and genuinely scary illustrations keep this debut novel fresh," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Wonderfully-spooky illustrations promise weirdness and possibly fear and horrora delightful mix for the 10- to 12-year-old crowd. The first chapter introduces the reader to the seventh son of a seventh son, a boy who is eager to get off the farm, but not so eager that he is jumping with joy at the idea of being apprentice to the Spook. However, Thomas J. Ward goes off on a month's trial. Soon he is up to his ears in trouble and questions. When should a promise be kept? Are all girls with pointy shoes trouble or is Alice, the niece of a witch, possibly good? Left alone for a short time, he ends up loosing the dangerous witch, Old Mother Malkin, from her cage and battling her into a river. When he heads home for solace from his mother (and instead gets a lecture on how he may be the only one who can stand up to the swelling evil in the world), Old Mother Malkin's slime trail warns him that he has brought trouble home to his family, particularly his new-born niece. This accomplished and complex story will fascinate middle-school readers. The characters, particularly Thomas and his family, sometime- friend Alice and his teacher, the Spook, are fully realized and definitely believable in their fantastic world of boggarts, witches, ghasts, and ghosts. Thomas's learning journal at the end is a treat by itself. 2005, Greenwillow Books, Ages 10 up.
In the same vein as other trendy, spooky British coming-of-age tales, The Last Apprentice tells the tale of 12-year-old Thomas Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son. His parents apprentice him to the local Spook, who wards off witches and other ghostly creatures from the community. It's a lonely and scary job, but someone has to do it, and Thomas's station in life and his associated sensitivity to the paranormal make him a natural for the tasks. Of course, being 12 and a novice, Thomas makes his fair share of blunders, which he has to pay for through some grizzly acts such as recapturing a bloodthirsty witch. Still, Thomas is a likeable and resourceful fellow, and learns much about himself as well as about the Spook and other unlikely creatures. Harper is putting major marketing efforts into this first novel. The ending is such that it obviously calls for at least one sequel if not several as Thomas grows as an apprentice and successor to the Spook. (The hints of the growing Darkness and the "last of the line" portend a rich development.) The setting is credible: Pendle Hill is mentioned, which truly is known by the locals as a witch haven. While not extraordinary, the writing is competent, and the plotline has enough twists to keep the reader in suspense. The character development is also well drawn. Some of the occult details are a bit gross but they are handled discreetly (even the baby-eating takes place "off stage"). Middle schoolers will probably like the edginess of the bound boggarts and hanging ghastlies. Will this book be popular? Yes, if Harper has anything to say about it. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2005, HarperCollins,Greenwillow, 336p., Ages 12 to 15.
Dr. Lesley Farmer
Gr 5-8-In the first title of the series by Joseph Delaney (Greenwillow, 2005), 12-year-old Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son who has been apprenticed to "The Spook," whose job it is to ward off witches, boggarts, and ghosts from his domain in the English countryside. Twenty-nine other apprentices have gone before Tom. Will he be able to succeed because he is able to "see things," or because he is left-handed, or because his Mam has taught him Greek? After leaving the farm and his family to go with Mr. Gregory, he is put through several trials and warnings to beware of girls in pointy shoes and to make sure not to insult a snippy boggart that cooks and cleans. Then the Spook begins very precise instruction, which Tom voluminously transcribes into notebooks. Young and na ve, Tom makes a big blunder that unleashes the wrath of the malevolent witch, Mother Malkin, a villain who could rival Voldermort. In this tale that is a mix between Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter, listeners will experience tension and suspense along with a likeable character in Tom, who is affable, loyal, and eager to do a good job. Actor Evan Welch reads this first-person narrative with a boyish sincerity. Each character is given a distinct and vibrant voice. Fans of this story will be eager for its sequel to know if Tom will succeed or go the route of the first 29 apprentices. A good purchase where the book is popular.-Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Readers seeking lots of up-close encounters with the unquiet dead and other creepy entities need look no further. Seventh son of a seventh son, and left-handed to boot, young Tom seems a natural to succeed Mr. Gregory, the aging "Spook" charged with keeping the County's many ghasts, ghosts, boggarts and witches in check. He's in for a series of shocks, though, as the job turns out to be considerably tougher and lonelier than he expects. Struggling to absorb Gregory's terse teachings and vague warnings, Tom is immediately cast up against a host of terrifying adversaries-most notably Mother Malkin, an old and very powerful witch, and her descendant Alice, a clever young witch-in-training who is capable of outwitting him at every turn, but may or may not have yet gone completely to the bad. An appendix of supposed pages reproduced from Tom's notebook adds little to information already supplied, but along with somber images at the chapter heads, does add atmospheric visual notes. By the end, though Mother Malkin has come to a suitably horrific end, there are tantalizing hints that the Dark Is Rising. Stay tuned. (Fantasy. 11-13)