Something very dark and mysterious (you could even say peculiar) is going on in the town of Suds. Children are turning grey and disappearing, window sills are being left undusted, and when Poppy arrives in Suds to visit her grandmother she begins to suspect the secret to everything might lie in the forbiddingly spooky Riddling Woods.
But when Poppy teams up with straight-talking Erasmus (a strange boy with very odd - you could even say peculiar - instincts), the pair discovers that unravelling the mystery of Suds won’t just be a case of overturning some old wives tales and getting to the bottom of a local legend about a child-hunting witch who lives on the edge of town... It will mean overcoming Poppy’s grief about the death of her mother and her fears about her grandmother’s failing health, and standing up against the fearsome town bully Regina Pocks. And what part does Peculiar Peggs’ mill play in the story, a building deep in the Woods that produces the most gorgeous garments anybody has ever seen? In a world where nothing is as it seems and magic and monsters (human and otherwise) lurk around every corner, can Poppy and Erasmus save the town from its supernatural fate?
The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods is a brilliantly written (very) young adult novel that is an enjoyable balance of chills, mystery and humour all wrapped up inside a plot that will keep the youngest readers hooked until the very last page. In tone, it’s a little bit Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (although with slightly less magical prose) and a little bit Ian Ogilvy’s Measle and the Wrathmonk - a fun, chocolatey fairytale confection that mixes a Hansel and Gretel-ish melodrama with a surprising amount of psychological depth.
Like all the best YA fantasies, it also conveys some important coming-of-age messages about friendship, loyalty, and finding the courage to be different. Simon J. Halpin has written a minor children’s classic here, and he’s well served by Hannah Peck’s charmingly cartoonish greyscale illustrations. Smaller children will love this, and so will the parents who still believe in reading to their kids at bedtime.
THE PECULIAR PEGGS OF RIDING WOODS / AUTHOR: SAMUEL J. HALPIN / PUBLISHER: USBORNE PUBLISHING LTD. / RELEASE DATE: 10TH JANUARY