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Review of Mothman’s Curse

hayes_mothman's curseMothman’s Curse
by Christine Hayes; illus. by James K. Hindle
Intermediate, Middle School   Roaring Brook   311 pp.
6/15   978-1-62672-027-5   $15.99
e-book ed. 978-1-62672-028-2   $9.99

Spine-tingling mystery meets small-town gossip in this ghost story set in Athens, Ohio, “the most haunted town in America.” Josie Fletcher and her scheming brother Fox are no strangers to the supernatural. But even they get spooked when a dusty Polaroid camera, marked with the initials J. G., starts doing more than taking pictures. Without explanation (and without any film), the ghostlike figure of an elderly, sad-faced man appears in every shot; then it manifests itself as a specter to the children, communicating an urgent message: “Save them.” But save whom? From what? Hayes cloaks the riddle in gothic gloom: is the specter the work of a trick camera, one of the many oddities in their father’s old auction house? Or is it the ghost of John Goodrich, a wealthy recluse whose mad wife perished in a landslide forty years ago, along with most of the town? The Fletcher kids need answers fast if they’re to prevent another disaster. Hindle’s cartoonish illustrations seem too bland for the rich storytelling, but thoroughly creepy motifs — dead moth collections, a centuries-old stickpin carrying a curse, and of course Mothman himself, a flying monster who’s part moth and part man — make for a good scare. Meanwhile, Josie’s wry observations and sensitive voice keep it real.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Lauren Rizzuto

Lauren Rizzuto is a teacher at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College and a bookseller at The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, MA.

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