I always love a story with a twisted fairy tale element and Samuel J Halpin’s The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods, with its intricately imaged magical realism, is 100% my kind of book. Atmospheric and wholly imaginative, Halpin’s superb storytelling had me charmed from start to finish.
When Poppy visits her grandmother in the town of Suds, she quickly realises that something peculiar is going on - from stories of disappearing children, to old wives’ tales about never dusting the window sills, to the dark and spooky Riddling Woods on the edge of the town.
Together with her new friend Erasmus, Poppy sets about to get to the heart to the town’s secrets. Along the way, the pair (whose friendship is charming and brings a real warmth to the story) have to navigate gritty real-life issues such as Grandmother's poor health, Poppy’s own grief at the death of her mother and an unpleasant experience of school bullying. On top of everything else, Poppy can't seem to shake from her mind the old local legends about the witch-like Peculiar Peggs that reside in an old mill near the town, preying on unsuspecting children.
Brilliantly told, this is an enjoyable story with the perfect balance of darkness and light to make it thrilling without being too scary for children in KS2. In a setting where nothing is at it seems, readers will relish the intrigue and find themselves deeply immersed in this world of dark magic and mystery.
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