• Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
• Reviewed by Corene Maret Brown, Port Moody Library
When the days are dark and the weather is cold, I love to read spooky stories — but not too spooky.
Perfect for a scaredy-cat like me, Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces is a great read for kids eight and older who want some scare but also want to be able to sleep at night.
Ollie is a bookworm. Ever since her mother died, she spends her time in her room reading to avoid her dad’s attempts to pretend that everything is OK.
So when she stumbles across a woman in the forest threatening to throw an antique book in the river, she doesn’t hesitate. She ignores the woman’s ravings about The Smiling Man and a curse.
Snatching away the book, she sprints home and starts to read.
The story that unfolds is dark and mysterious. Long ago, there were two brothers.
Tragically, the favourite brother disappears into the forest one night. Mad with grief, the mother begs the other son to bring back his brother at any cost. Wearily, the son agrees.
They emerge, days later, alive but changed — not the carefree boys they used to be. They said The Smiling Man brought them both back but at a terrible price.
The story haunts Ollie. Even a class trip to the local Smoke Hollow Farm, with its own tragic history, doesn’t interest her.
But when the owner of the family farm is revealed to be the strange lady who wanted to destroy the book, Ollie starts to wonder if it was more than just fiction.
This book is perfect for fans of Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest, Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener and Tracey Baptiste’s The Jumbies.