cover image The Midnight Horse

The Midnight Horse

Sid Fleischman. Greenwillow Books, $16.99 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-688-09441-6

What Leon Garfield does for Victorian England, Newbery Medalist Fleischman ( The Whipping Boy ) does for the Red Raven Inn in Cricklewood, N.H.--population 217, ``216 Fine Folks & 1 Infernal Grouch.'' The grouch is wicked Judge Wigglesforth who, having cheated his nephew Touch out of his rightful inheritance, threatens to send him to an orphan's home. ``With a bit of straw and a touch of midnight,'' Touch is befriended by the ghost of a magician, the Great Chaffalo. By the story's end, Wigglesforth gets his comeuppance, Touch wins the beautiful Sally and the Red Raven Inn has been saved. From the opening stormy coach ride to the Keystone Kops chase at the end, Fleischman's story crackles with action, eccentric characters and what the blacksmith calls ``mysticiation.'' Sis's black-and-white drawings, appropriately mysterious and quirky, perfectly match this deftly told tale of innocence and villainy. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)