The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle: Middle Grade Historical Fantasy

Viking, March 15, 2016

ISBN 9780451476333

400 pp.

Grades 6 and up

“Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

  • Winner of SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award, Western States Division
  • 2016 Junior Library Guild selection
  • Spring 2016 Indies Next pick
  • ALA Notable Books Nominee 2016
  • 2017 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Shortlist Honor Book
  • 2017 Texas SPOT (Spirit of Texas Award) selection
  • 2017 Wisconsin State Reading Association selection
  • 2017 Maine Student Book Awards list
  • Booklist Top 10 Books For Youth Fantasy/Horror 2016
  • Brightly Best Books 2016
  • Bank Street Best Children’s Books 2016

Kirkus: “Witchy magic, Nazi menace, and clockwork all come into play, along with an Enigma machine and spies for both the Allies and the Nazis seeking occult sources of power or protection. After the breathtaking climax, various threads of the story are tied up in a drawing-room denouement in which the characters decide to dispose of toxic magical artifacts rather carelessly—though in a way that invites anticipation (and fortuitously leaves room for sequels). An original, clever, page-turning adventure.” Starred review

Publishers Weekly: “True-to-life protagonists, the skillful interweaving of flashbacks and the chatelaine motif, a masterful final encounter, and a satisfying denouement attest to Fox’s craftsmanship.” Starred review

Booklist: “This wonderfully written gothic fairy tale pairs the horror elements with a steampunk witch and mysterious staff, all while telling a war espionage tale. Embedded lessons—even including Plato’s cave allegory—from a pair of sympathetic castle teachers provide clues to defeating the evil witch. Readers will curl up and keep the lights on with this chilling page-turner.” Starred review

Booklist, Review of Audio Book: “Pair this one with other stories of evacuees from the Blitz, like 2015’s Odyssey winner, The War That Saved My Life, or with time-slipping horror tales such as the Emerald Atlas (2011). Hardingham’s masterful telling will keep listeners on the edge of their seats, and the ending leaves the door open for a sequel that promises to be equally as chilling.” Starred review

Shelf Awareness: “This gothic middle-grade novel, set in Scotland, mixes ancient magic with World War II spycraft.” Starred review

The Wall Street Journal: “In artful, grisly flashbacks, Janet Fox equips the reader with just enough information—more than Kat has, certainly—to intensify our alarm when the visiting children begin to disappear, one after another, and our heroine is forced to grapple with a dark and ancient magic that has Rookskill in its thrall.”

School Library Journal: “Fox presents readers with a wonderfully paced, exciting story with enough twists to keep the pages turning. The strong female lead and adventure on every page will keep any reader entertained from the first page to the last.”

“An enchanting, ghostly story that had me in its grip until the last page. With her courage, strength, and intelligence, Kat Bateson will become one of the great literary heroines. I rooted for her right through the last page.”—Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of The False Prince

“With nods to Narnia, Harry Potter and The Golden Compass, Janet Fox has created hair-raising suspense and drama. My heart is still pounding from this action-packed, imaginative read!”—Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky

“Chilling, creepy, charming . . . a delicious read, full of twists and turns and writing that soars right along with the rooks outside the castle walls.”—Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Underneath

“Fiendishly addicting, with as many twists and turns as the sinister castle that conceals the charmed children and the chilling evil that first ensnared them.”—Julie Berry, award-winning author of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

“A new classic: a terrifyingly irresistible mystery, full of danger, magic, and adventure.”—Nikki Loftin, author of Wish Girl and Nightingale’s Nest