cover image The Beasts of Clawstone Castle

The Beasts of Clawstone Castle

Eva Ibbotson, , illus. by Kevin Hawkes. . Dutton, $16.99 (243pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47719-8

There's more spooky hilarity in store for fans of Ibbotson's previous ghost stories (Dial-a-Ghost ; The Great Ghost Rescue ). However, animal lovers may have trouble digesting some of the darker moments of this book. While their parents are in America, British siblings 11-year-old Madlyn and nine-year-old Rollo stay at Clawson Castle, an estate owned by the children's mild-mannered Great-Aunt Emily and Great-Uncle George. Uncle George takes great pride in his snow-white cattle, but unless more money can be earned by attracting tourists to the castle, the precious herd (and the castle) may be lost. Madlyn suggests that they draw more visitors by filling the castle with ghosts. Business booms after they hire a crew of frightening phantoms—a bloody bride, a skeleton taxi driver, a severed circus lady, a pirate and a rat that gnaws at his heart, and a Scottish pair of feet that dance to Highland reels (all cunningly depicted in Hawkes's illustrations). But when Uncle George's cows are kidnapped, it is up to the children to save them from the clutches of a greedy doctor, who mutilates critters for fun and profit. The book offers a plethora of tangled threads and comic characters and perhaps more gore than is customary for the author. However, things end on an up note: there are no serious injuries to the protagonists (human or otherwise) and the villains get their just deserts. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)