Under-confident readers in my class always gravitate to Barrington Stoke books. From the exciting covers to the friendly text to colour of the pages to the gripping stories, they offer those children high-quality and inspiring texts to develop their love for reading. Dan Smith's new series centring on the weird goings-on surrounding the children of Crooked Oak is perfect for this reason, so much so that my class have picked 'The Beast of Harwood Forest' for our afternoon story times. Although they're a little worried they're going to get really scared! But they love all that. (My review of 'The Invasion of Crooked Oak is here.)
Pete, Nancy and Krish arrive at Heathland Camp for their overnight school trip. There are cabin dorms, outdoor fires, zip-wires and other areas for fun activities. But beyond the camp, there are strange, creepy, crumbling buildings. The Harwood Institute. What is it? And what are the strange noises coming from the forest it is a part of? Pete and his friends dare to investigate. But what will they do once they uncover the disturbing secrets...?
As with 'The Invasion of Crooked Oak' this second offering packs a real punch. It's creepy, mysterious and exciting, and the central trio are funny and believable in their reactions. For those who loved Jennifer Killick's 'Crater Lake', 'The Beast of Harwood Forest' offers the same thrills in shorter form - with Dan Smith's distinct flair for building tension and weirdness in sharp prose. Add in Chris King's graphic illustrations and you've got a real winner. What I especially loved about this is how it blends a nightmare school-trip with elements of Cabin in the Woods and the military. I grew up by air bases so I love the MoD elements - the barbed-wire and feeling of secrets on the edge of things.
Well done Dan Smith and Barrington Stoke! You've done it again. And I'm sure my class are going to love it. Just got to dim the lights and put a torch under my chin.
Thank you to the publishers for the copy to review.