Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spoofing the Spooks: The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by Eva Ibbotson

What else to read while we waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Eva Ibbotson's latest of many spookly and wizardly titles is The Beasts of Clawstone Castle, which offers plenty of the madcap, macabre, ghastly, ghostly gallery of characters kids have come to expect in her books.

In this case Ibbotson uses the merest of premises (a summer job in the States for the parents with an apartment too small for the children) to get Madlyn and Rollo off to spend their summer holiday with their Great-Uncle Sir George, Great-Aunt Emily, and mysterious cousin Howard in their dank, down-at-the-heels, crumbling Clawstone Castle. The children soon feel very sorry for their elderly relatives, who eke out a pittance with their weekly castle tours to to fund a preserve for their rare herd of wild white cattle. Hoping to make their "Open Days" a bit more, shall we say, spirited, the kids persuade the reclusive Howard (who turns out to be, like Harry's Professor Binn, only the ghost of his former self) to recruit some of the more theatrical of his ghostly friends to spice up the castle tours.

With a real horror show in place for the tourists, the Clawstoners are raking in the pounds until inspectors purportedly from the Ministry of Animal Health declare the white cattle infected with a deadly contagious bovine disease and must be destroyed immediately. Sir George and the children (not to mention the ghosts who have grown very fond of the herd) are devastated by the terrible news. Before they can properly grieve for the lost herd, the ghosts (and a trio of banshees who have dropped by to help them mourn) discover that the cattle have been secreted on a Scottish island where a sinister pair are carrying out plastic surgery to convert them for resale into unicorn look-alikes. The courageous children and their spirited spectres manage to foil the evil plan and return the cattle to the Clawstone compound in perfect health. All's well that ends well, and Madlyn and Rollo realize they have found a family, living and, well, everlasting, to come back to at Clawstone Castle.

Eva Ibbotson's characters are somewhere between spooky and spoofy, with plenty of the YUCK but not too much of the YIKES factor. On the scale from the sublime to the ridiculous,I guess you could say she's the median between Harry Potter and Goosebumps!



  • My 11 year old daughter loves Eva Ibbotson's books. She'll be thrilled to find out there's a new one. Thanks for the tip.

    Lawrence S.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:20 PM  

  • A new Eva Ibbotson is always cause for celebration! Thanks for the great review.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 AM  

  • Every time I hear that there is a new book of Eva Ibbotson, that has been released, I get so inspired just by remembering her other books whose content are really a masterpiece.

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