Audience: Middle Grade
October in East Evansburg, and the last warm sun of the year slanted red through the sugar maples.
– first sentence
I’ve seen Small Spaces on shelves, but I was never interested in reading it (I’m not even sure why). Turns out it is a scary story that involves ghosts, and that is right up my alley.
Ollie is a sixth-grader who loves books and uses reading to escape from a tragedy that she doesn’t want to think about. One day Ollie sees a strange woman about to throw a book into the river and she grabs the book and runs home. Ollie reads the book and is intrigued by the creepy story about making deals with a “smiling man” for a price. During a class field trip to Smoke Hollow farm, Ollie discovers the graves of the people from the story. On the drive home, the bus breaks down and the driver tells Ollie to “get moving before they come for the rest of you.” Ollie is confused but decides to trust her gut. She only manages to convince two kids to go with her. It seems like the scarecrows are closing in on them, but what do they want?
This book is great about questioning stereotypes. Ollie’s mom is a bold adventurer, her dad bakes and knits, and Coco is a pretty, feminine girl who also rock climbs. Ollie realizes that Coco doesn’t cry because she is weak, but because she feels things so strongly. Maybe crying isn’t a weakness. Ollie is trying to hide from her feelings in books, but she realizes that she can’t hide forever. The scarecrows who chase the kids during the second half of the book must eventually be faced, just as Ollie must face her feelings about a tragic loss.
This is another Sunshine State nominated book (grades 6-8). I think kids who like scary books will really enjoy this one and it has a strong female lead, so even better.