The Children’s Book Blog Christmas Countdown: Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
For December I’ve decided to turn the children’s book blog into a sort of literary advent calendar. Every day of the month I’ll be posting a short recommendation of a wintry or Christmassy children’s book to warm your cockles or, in some cases, chill the blood. There’ll be something for readers of all ages, from picture books all the way up to YA. My choice for December 18th is Gareth P. Jones’s ‘Constable & Toop’.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a good ghost story, and Constable & Toop is most definitely that. But the ghosts in this tale aren’t the scary, chain-rattling types – in fact, the scariest characters are very much alive.
A mysterious phenomenon known as ‘Black Rot’ is eating its way through all the haunted houses in Victorian London. And, as everybody should know, a city needs its haunted houses. Unfortunately, the only people who can stop the rot are a downtrodden (and long-dead) office clerk called Lapsewood and his spectral street urchin sidekick, Tanner.
Meanwhile, a teenage undertaker’s son called Sam Toop has his own problems to contend with. For a start, there’s the fact that he was born being able to see and speak to ghosts – a talent he regards as a curse rather than a gift (it turns out the dead can be very demanding, particularly when it comes to unfinished business concerning money or love). Then there’s the unexpected arrival of his Uncle Jack, a menacing figure who seems to be a little too handy with a knife.
Elsewhere in the city, a feisty teenage girl called Clara finds herself up against a sinister exorcist, while a young beggar girl finds herself haunting Clara’s house. Oh, and all the ghosts in London find themselves up against a soul-devouring Hell hound.
It’s not a straightforward plot, then. But thanks to some pretty nifty story juggling, the various narrative strands eventually weave together to create one gruesome and gripping tale. Children aged eight and up will love the witty interplay between horror and humour and there’s a host of memorable characters, both living and dead. The mad ‘Marquis’ is probably my favourite.
Check back tomorrow to see which book is lurking behind the ‘calendar door’ for December 19th and catch up on my previous recommendations here
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author. She is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel set in Hackney. You can follow her on Twitter as @TheStoryMonsterTagged in: children's literature, christmas books, christmas children's books, Constable & Toop, Gareth P. Jones
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