Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell
Macmillan, 2013. ISBN 9780230759800.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Picture book for older readers. 2013 Costa Children's Book Awards. Specsavers National Book Awards 2013 shortlist. Ada Goth lives at Ghastly-Gorm Hall with the famous cycling poet Lord Goth. Since the death of her mother, a daring trapeze artist, Ada has been forced to wear clumping boots so that her father can avoid her, as he finds it difficult to face her because she reminds him of her mother. When Ada meets Ishmael a ghostly mouse, she discovers that Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper has a dastardly plot for the annual indoor hunt and together with William and Emily Cabbage, they begin to unravel it.
This is a delight of a book! A hard back publication, it is beautifully presented with a black, purple and silver cover, purple edged pages and silver end papers. Chris Riddell's black and white illustrations are lavish, with Ada a Regency heroine garbed in beautiful dresses and often with a huge feather in her head-dress. Lord Goth is also fabulously illustrated, looking Bryonesque, with tight trousers, waterfall cravat, riding boots and sweeping wind-swept hair. There is much humour to be had in the illustrations of the other characters and the Metaphorical Bicycle Race has a double page spread and is riotous. With many literary allusions, it is amusing for older readers and adults to work out just who Riddell is alluding to. One of the many examples is the references to governesses (I could pick out Jane Ear, Nana Darling, Hebe Poppins, but not the rest). Other literary and historical characters include Mary Shellfish, Charles Cabbage and Lucy Borgia, and these versions would certainly add an element of fun for those who enjoy reading.
The adventure in the story is hilarious and will be enjoyed by younger children, who will cheer when Ada makes friends and with them goes about the business of foiling Maltravers and rescuing the creatures that he has imprisoned. The addition of a tiny book in verse telling the adventures of Ishmael the ghostly mouse will also entertain readers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this rollicking Gothic adventure with its eccentric characters, strange contraptions and whimsical humour that all ages could enjoy.