Reviews /

Jodie

Authored by Hilary McKay
Illustrated by Keith Robinson
Published by Barrington Stoke

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‘And now I’m trapped. I’m trapped in this haunted place.

Don’t think I haven’t tried screaming. Because I have.’

Jodie, a new ghostly story by Hilary McKay, will send shivers down your spine from the offset. McKay’s skilled use of vocabulary paired with Keith Robinson’s black-and-white illustrations mean the reader can picture each scene perfectly. Some might say this is what makes the perfect ghost story – when the story lingers in your mind long after you have turned the pages.

The book is named after the protagonist – Jodie. A self-confessed loner, Jodie finds herself dreading the residential school trip. The only person she is fond of at school is her teacher, Mrs Nolan. Unfortunately, at the last minute Mrs Nolan is unable to make the trip and, to only make matters worse, on arrival Jodie overhears her peers talking about her behind her back. Feeling even more isolated than usual, Jodie seeks solitude. In doing so, she breaks the number one rule: do not go anywhere by yourself.

Jodie’s solitary venture across the salt marsh leads her to hear the persistent barking of a dog in trouble. Unable to ignore it, Jodie sets off to find and rescue the creature. However, along the way, she encounters a strange woman, a discarded truck and a seal who seems to be communicating with her. All does not make sense, and Jodie quickly finds herself alone and in trouble. Will her peers realise she has gone missing? Will Jodie discover who the woman is and where the little dog is? What significance does the seal hold? And ultimately, will Jodie make it back alive? These questions will keep young readers on the edge of their seats.

McKay’s beautiful use of repetition as well as revealing just enough information, means that readers need to use their inference to fill the gaps. It is this that makes this book so captivating: we are forced to imagine the unknown. And that’s what makes it spooky.

The book is published under Barrington Stoke, who specifically cater for dyslexic and struggling readers through their choice of font, layout and vocabulary. Despite having a reading age of 8+, the book is suitable for UKS2+ (an interest age of 9+). This enables children who find the process of reading difficult to access books which are genuinely interesting whilst not being patronising. I will certainly read this book to my Year 6 class, who love spooky stories. I am sure it will then be re-read by individuals, some of whom will not be confident readers.

It is A haunting read that will undoubtedly be enjoyed by many children and their teachers for years to come.