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 harborsand what Lady Eleanor isbefore 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.
About 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.
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.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.