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There has been a government initiative to furnish all year 7 children with a free book from a pre-approved selection and this is the book my son chose. I was immediately struck by the artwork and general design which I think strikes just enough of a macabre chord and i think the cover influenced my son's decision. The cover does indeed give you a very good idea of the general tone of the book, which I would describe as very dark. A young boy goes visiting his strange and reclusive uncle who lives in an eerie house in the middle of some seriously spooky woods. Whilst there the boy is regaled with stories, each one a little more macabre than the last. I don't want to give too much away as I think it spoils the read if you have too much fore-knowledge, but it was reminiscent of some of the "Gruesome tales for gruesome kids" stories in which horrid children come to sticky ends. It also reminds me in some ways of Roald Dahl's writing. The use of language is impressive, and there's a great variation in the vocabulary with some pretty challenging words for younger readers. All in all an excellent read for adults and older kids alike.
I'll begin as I usually do; with a confession. Yes, I brought the book for its cover, and was overjoyed when I realised it had pictures inside too. I know its a young adults book, and I am a little older than this now, but I will wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone that likes something a bit macabre. Also, the short stories are great to dip in and out of if you're just reading on the bus; I'll admit I finished this in two days and that was just during bus reading. In the strange house of Uncle Montague, the protagonist listens to each story with interest and fear as his uncle recalls tale after tale of the macabre and the bizarre, as he is remind of each unfortunate child by the objects and pictures that surround him. Interrupted only occasionally by the mysterious butler, Uncle Montague's own troubled past behind to come to the surface as more tales are told. The uncle and the boy are a wonderful framing device for a very original collection of short stories. I especially liked 'The Gilt Frame' and 'The Path', both of which made me shiver. I wish this book was out when I was a kid, it would have scared the hell out of me! If you like something a bit weird, this is for you. Equally, if you like proper fairy tales, horror, tales of madness, and I suppose a hint of people like Edgar Allan Poe, Tim Burton, the Brothers Grimm, and lots of other ingredients that make a book just perfect for somebody with tastes of this type. Also if you like illustrators like Ronald Searle or Edward Gorey, this is a pictorial delight! I have a couple of books illustrated by David Roberts, his images tend to be what attract me in the first place; I loved this book as much as I loved ten sorry tales, and look forward to forgetting the stories so I can go back and read them again!