Monday, July 11, 2016

Creepella von Cacklefur, No. 1 - The Thirteen Ghosts

Okay, so I'm a sucker for some gimmicks - sue me!  I've had my eye on the Thea Stilton series for a long time - every time I go into a Barnes & Noble or a Books-A-Million, I see the series of books on the shelves, and I'll pull a couple out, glance through them, and wonder whether I should give them a try.  They look short and sweet, easy to read, and quite frankly, fun!  Yes, I realize the reading level for the series is ages 7 to 10, but when have I ever let that stop me from enjoying a good mystery series.

So imagine my surprise when a few weeks back, David and I are browsing through Books-A-Million, and I see they have a "Buy 2, Get 3rd Free" sale on all of their children's series books.  Seeing no new books in the current series I collect, I thought this might be the perfect chance to pick up the first three Thea Stilton books and give them a shot.  So, imagine my surprise when I saw another series right there next to Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton - a uniquely horror/mystery series starting "Creepella von Cacklefur" - who is described on the back of the book as "an enchanting and mysterious mouse with a pet bat named Bitewing.  By night Creepella is a special-effects designer and director of scary films, and by day she's studying to become a journalist."  As a lover of horror stories and mysteries, this was a combination that I couldn't resist.

The first book in the series, The Thirteen Ghosts, is not necessarily scary, and the mystery is anything but mysterious; but, it is good, clean fun, and had these books been around when I was in first and second grade, I have no doubt I would have been gobbling them up as soon as each new book came out.  The writing is simple, and the author utilizes repetitiveness as an obvious means to teach younger readers new words.  Each chapter is chock full of full color illustrations, and there are a number of two-page full illustrations (depicting the cast of characters, or the rooms of the mansion, etc.).

The plot is not overly intricate - Creepella is looking for her latest story for "The Shivery News," and she decides she wants to interview some ghosts.  With her pet bat and her niece, Shivereen, she heads to Squeakspeare Mansion, which is said to be filled with ghosts.  There, she meets the latest owner of the mansion, Billy Squeakspeare, who is a writer and is timid as (dare I say it?) a mouse.  They discover the mansion is haunted by not just one, nor even just two or three, but by thirteen ghosts!  And these ghosts are none too happy to have visitors - until they find out Billy is a writer!   They all have stories to tell and no way to tell them; so, it falls upon Billy to start telling their tales.  Not before Creepella, though, gets the interviews she needs to make her article a chilling success.

There is no information given in the book as to the identity of the author, but I found some very interesting facts about the book on the publication page.  The series is based on an original idea by Elisabetta Dami and apparently is an Italian publication.  Scholastic has translated the series and published it here in America for young readers.  The original title was Tredici fantasmi per Tenebrosa, and the cover art is by Guiseppe Farrario, with internal illustrations by Ivan Bigarella (pencils) and Giorgio Campioni (colors).  The original Italian text was translated by Emily Clement.  Clearly, there were a lot of people involved in the creation / publication of this book, and it leads me to wonder how successful it is over in Italy.  Something to look up one day, I suppose...

Along with the "Greetings from Somewhere" series, this is another early readers series I would recommend for children who are just getting into reading (first to third graders).  It's fun and easy to read, and the style is nearly Disney-esque in nature.  Now we'll have to wait and see if the further volumes in this series stand up to the test.

RATING:  7 convertible hearses out of 10 for giving kids a "horror" series of books that are squeaky clean, yet still fun to read.

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