Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

The Fabulous, the Mysterious, Madame Badobedah!

Madame Badobedah, by Sophie Dahl/Illustrated by Lauren O’Hara, (April 2020, Walker Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536210224

Ages 5-8

Mabel is a young girl living in the Mermaid Hotel, where her parents work. There’s always something to see and do at the Mermaid, but when a mysterious, somewhat eccentric old lady moves in, Mabel puts on her detective hat. Madame Badobedah, as Mabel calls her, has simply¬†got to be a supervillain. When Mabel begins investigating Madame Badobedah, she discovers a much softer, kinder, friendlier woman, and the two unlikely friends explore the hotel – and beyond – together.

This is a sweet story of intergenerational friendships, with a Dahl-esque fantastic twist (Sophie Dahl is author Roald Dahl’s granddaughter). Mabel is a smart, curious girl a la Harriet the Spy; Madame Badobedah is a fabulously exotic, mysterious figure that readers can’t help but be drawn to: “She was old, old, old. With red lips. She was not alone. She had two dogs, two cats, a tortoise, and twenty-three bags, all clustered around her like a choir. I thought she might be a little awful”, as Mabel describes her. She calls people “Darlink”, and has “red, crunchy hair”. Dahl’s descriptions are vivid and wonderfully brought to life by Lauren O’Hara, whose watercolor illustrations add a surreal touch to this incredible story. Blue and white beachy endpapers really put the reader into a spring/summer mindset.

Originally published in the UK in 2019, I’m very happy to be welcoming Sophie Dahl to US readers. Great for a read-aloud to school-age readers, Madame Badobedah also allows for an art/English exercise where kids can draw their own versions of Madame Badobedah, a room in the Mermaid Hotel, or where their own hidden corridor would lead to.

Madame Badobedah has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Skin crawling YA horror: The Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics

women-in-the-wallsThe Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics (Sept. 2016, Harlequin Teen), $18.99, ISBN: 9780373211944

Recommended for ages 13+

Lucy Acosta lives with her cousin, Margaret, her aunt, Penelope, and her father, Felix, in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods. Her mother died when she was three, leaving her to be raised by her loving aunt and distant father. When Lucy is 17, Penelope takes a walk into the woods and disappears, throwing the household into chaos. Margaret, Penelope’s daughter, is becoming unhinged, telling Lucy that she hears her dead mother talking to her through the walls, telling her to join her. Her father, obsessed with throwing dinner parties for the exclusive club he belongs to, ignores Lucy’s pleas for help; he won’t accept any sign of weakness. As Lucy tries to get to the bottom of the voices in the walls, she starts hearing them too; and when she begins digging into her family’s legacy, the things she find may doom her.

This was a gloriously creepy novel with just enough gore to move it from haunted house novel to horror. Think Wicker Man meets The Legacy (wow, did I just date myself with that reference), with wonderful madness tossed in, to make things interesting. Be warned, delicate sensibilities and stomachs may find some of the language and violence too much. This is not a book for your conservative readers.

Lucy and Margaret are fairy skin-deep characters with the potential for deeper storytelling, but it’s not really their story, as you’ll discover. The real development is going on around them. Think of Lucy as the narrator – which she is – and the host of the story. She’s the central character, but she’s in the dark almost as much as we readers are. The supporting characters are where the story lies, and when the elements all come together, this is a page-turning read. Horror and suspense fans will enjoy this one.