Inspiring Young Readers
Still Water by Chris Priestley
I have to admit that I do love a well-written, spooky chiller and Chris Priestley’s latest from the ‘super-readable’ Barrington Stoke stable does the business admirably. Having said that, stories with a supernatural theme are a bit of a nightmare when it comes to reviewing them because it’s vital not to give away anything crucial to the enjoyment of the story while at the same time saying enough to do the book justice. It’s a difficult trick to pull-off – but I’ll give it ago.
Priestley sets Still Water just at the outbreak of World War Two when families were being encouraged to send their men off to war and their children out to the country to avoid the bombing campaign everyone knew was inevitable. Rosie, who lives in London with her mom, is one of the children who is being whisked away into the country.
We’ve found out a lot more in recent years about just how traumatic evacuation was for everyone concerned – the children, the parents and the families who took them in. While some flourished in their new environments, others had a wretched time – exploited abused or bullied they frequently ran back to take their chances with the bombs. I’m not giving anything away to say that Rosie falls into this latter category – frightened and miserable she finds herself living with Mrs Taylor and her daughter Mary.
Rosie soon finds herself being relentlessly bullied by Mary and rejected by the other children in the village who Mary dominates and manipulates. In her misery Rosie tries to spend as much time alone as she can and returns to a deep, still pond she had passed before while on a walk with Mrs Taylor and where she thought she had seen another young girl swimming. Maybe, she thinks, this girl could be her new best friend? What Rosie doesn’t know is that she’s stumbled on something that will unfold into a chilling story of guilt and revenge and which will climax in tragedy.
I really mustn’t say any more!
Guided for readers over the age of 8, this is a book that will reel in boys and girls who like to feel a shiver down their backs and who also love a great bit of storytelling. I’m pretty certain you’ll be kept guessing about what exactly is going on until the very end – even if you think you’ve rumbled the plot.
Halloween isn’t so very far away now and this would make an ideal story for reading out aloud around the fire with your friends. Or maybe you’re the type that likes to shut yourself alone in your bedroom, turn out the lights, switch on your reading torch and let yourself experience the chill-thrill. Either way, you’re in for a treat.