A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
When my kids were small I used to read to them a lot, usually in an effort (doomed) to get the little blighters to go to sleep. I’d let them choose a pile of picture books from the box and the deal was that once the books were all read, they would settle down for the night. It rarely worked out that way, but what I did achieve from all that reading aloud, if not some peace, was a keen appreciation for what kind of stories my kids really enjoyed.
It didn’t surprise me much to discover that the books about fairies and princesses stayed at the bottom of the box, their covers pristine. The ones that got dragged out night after night were the ones about small children being menaced in various ways. Ones about being chased up trees by bears or cooked in ovens by witches or discovering exactly what was hiding under the bed. Those were the ones with tattered pages and frayed corners and the reason for my lack of surprise at their popularity was that at their age, I also spurned the books which contained any hint of improving my reading skills or awakening my wonder for the natural world. I wanted books about murder. Preferably lots of murder.
The Brothers Grimm understood that impulse very well and do does Kenneth Kit Lamug. In The Stumps of Flattop Hill a little girl called Florence is dared by her friends to visit the house on the hill. She’s frightened of it, they say. That night Florence sees that all the windows in the normally dark house are brightly lit. She slips out of bed and decides to pay the house a visit.
Bad choice Florence.
The Stumps is a lovely child-sized take on that staple of supernatural lit, the haunted house. The illustrations alone are a treat. Here’s Florence tiptoeing through the ground floor, on her way to Whatever Lurks Upstairs:
So many wonderful details! I especially dig that sneaky spider and the jar of heads. The visual element doesn’t stop with the pictures. The words also get to join the party:
Notice the joke about the heads. My inner five year old found that hilarious. OK, my inner five year old isn’t actually that inner, but The Stumps passes the true test of really good children’s lit: it’s as appealing to the person reading it as to the ones they’re reading it to.
This is a book my kids would have dragged out of the box time after time, the one held together by sellotape and a shared love of things that go bump in the night. If there’s a small person in your life who likes delightfully creepy tales, give both of you a treat and buy them this.
Kenneth Kit Lamug: The Stumps of Flattop Hill (One Peace Books, 16 March 2016). ISBN 978-1935548867, RRP £13.50