Newest Review: ... next day to have a boy in her class tell her that Dracula once lived in Whitby. When they arrive at their hotel it is very like Fliss's... more
Room 13 - Robert Swindells
Member Name: cyberem78
Room 13 - Robert Swindells
Advantages: Fun, scary, memorable.
First published in 1989, this children's horror book became a sensation for my twelve year old friends and I after we discovered it in the school library. Word of mouth made this book so sought after that in order to guarantee getting to read it we had to share it between our groups of friends or read it out loud together. We had so little chance to get our hands on it that we had to read it on our journey home from school!
A few facts about the book make it tantalising to young fans of horror or chiller stories. Firstly, printed inside the jacket of the book is the claim that this story was inspired by a real school trip to Whitby in 1987. Furthermore, the author dedicates the book to a class full of pupils who he claims "were there too". Thirdly, there is a shocking feature of the book where the chapter 13 (unlucky for some!) has been completely left blank. This seemed to me, as a young reader, so daring and different from the norm that I felt this book must really be something special.
The story centres on a group of school children who are on a sleeping-over school trip to Whitby. During the trip the children learn about how author Bram Stoker was inspired to write the classic Gothic novel 'Dracula' when he saw the eerie ruins of Whitby Abbey. This is a brilliant learning experience and a subtle introduction to the adult literature. Readers who are unfamiliar with the existence of Stoker's novel are provided with a simple explanation of where and how the character of Dracula was created.
This story is really a paean to the classic Stoker novel with a similar tale of vampire suckings and night terrors ensuing. Although there is a high degree of horror and a quite often a feeling of dread there is also a margin of humour and lots of childish fun. The novel is as educational as it is enjoyable fun. To give the story credibility there are some references to eighties vampire movies although the relevance of this is now probably lost on today's readers. There are also a few references to historical events, to real life landscapes and works of art which may inspire some readers to investigate them further after reading the book.
I felt very close to the characters when I first read this book. There is definately a 'northern' feel to the language and manner of interaction between the children's characters. As someone who lives in the North of England I felt I could very easily identify with the setting of the novel and the atmosphere of the location and attitude of society. I think that all children could read this and imagine themselves in Whitby though - as the description is very deatailed with rich, poetic language detailing the experience of the senses.
I love this book so much that when I was a university student I found this in my local library and read it again for enjoyment! I have since bought the book and have given it to my neices to read, who have absolutely loved it. Although now twenty years old this story still translates to a new generation.
This book won the Children's Book Award in 1990, the winner of which is chosen by children - I can't think of a better endorsement! It is a relatively short story and I would say it's suitable for ages 8 to 12 and for all readers of all capabilities. This book has been re-printed numerous times and is currently published by Corgi Childrens Books. Also available as an audio CD.
Summary: A great children's horror story.