*Disclaimer: The author of Childish Spirits, Rob Keeley, provided me with a free ebook copy of his book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own, and I was not required to post a positive review.
The Giveaway has ended!
JULY 28, 2019
*Kindle edition information
Publisher: Matador (May 8, 2019)
Length: 119 pages
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy On: Amazon
Star Rating: 4.5 / 5
When Ellie and her family move into Inchwood Manor, Ellie quickly discovers strange things are happening. Who is the mysterious boy at the window? What secrets lie within the abandoned nursery? Who is the woman who haunts Ellie’s dreams – and why has she returned to the Manor, after more than a century? Ellie finds herself entangled in a Victorian mystery of ghosts and tunnels and secret documents – and discovers that life all those years ago isn’t so different from the world she knows today… Rob Keeley’s first novel for children brings out all the ingredients of the classic ghost story within a recognisable modern world setting. Readers of his short story collections for children will find in Childish Spirits the elements which made his past books such a success – strong and contemporary characters, inventive twists on traditional themes, and a winning combination of action, suspense and humour.
Wow–Childish Spirits certainly had it all: fantasy, historical fiction, fiction, young adult, spirits, suspense, friendship, and plot twists. I was surprised at how much content was packed into such a short book. Childish Spirits was not a very long read–only 119 pages–but it had as much plot content as most long novels have.
Don’t let the “mysticisim” scare you off. I was leery of it at first as well, but the author assured me that there was no horror or “halloweenish” twists to it, so I finally decided to read it. I ended up being very pleasently surprised. It was not at all what I was expecting. I did not think it was creepy or horror”ish” at all. I actually REALLY enjoyed the book. I would even read it again. I loved it!
Rob Keeley told me that he had intended Childish Spirits to be for a younger audience–age 8 and up–however, I thought it was so well written that the age range could be from 8 to 80. I that really any type of audience could read and enjoy it.
The book was written from a Ellie’s, a young teenager, point of view. The plot was easy to read and follow and the author’s dialouge was very well written. Edward, the young “ghost” that Ellie befriends, is the other main character in the story but is not told from his point of view. The friendship between Ellie and Edward was very humerous and intriguing, but also very unique. I thought Rob Keeley did an awesome job balancing the human/ghost friendship, and didn’t blure the lines too often.
The author described each and every scene expertly and made me feel like I was in the story the whole time. I could picture each scene in my mind and could picture it almost as good as movie.
I enjoyed each plot and twist in the story, and it definately kept me guessing the whole time, and attached to the book.
Like I said earlier, I would defiantely reccomend this book to all audiences. Even if you are someone like me, who does not typically like “ghostly” or fantasy stories, I suggest you try this book–you will probably be surprised!
What were your schooldays like?
They were fragmented, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and utterly bananas. I use a wheelchair and was first put into a special school at three years old, which I hated. Then they started to introduce me gradually into mainstream education, but I didn’t get into a mainstream primary school full-time until I was ten. So for a few years I was spending mornings in one school and afternoons in another. At one point my special school was going to another mainstream school – where my mother was Deputy Head – one morning a week for Science lessons. So at that time I was in three schools in one day!
Another time the kids in wheelchairs at my special school formed the Bicycle Reflector Club, with membership depending on acquiring free reflectors for your spokes from cereal packets. I would get all the kids at the afternoon school to save up their reflectors for me, so I soon had more than anyone else without having to eat any cereal! One day I’ll make that into a short story.
And then at eleven I was sent to a high school miles away from home, where I had a very rough time indeed. But in those days it was the only mainstream high school in the entire area that was equipped for disabled kids. Thankfully things have improved a lot. All these experiences gave me plenty of material to draw on for my school stories, published in The Alien in the Garage, The (Fairly) Magic Show and The Dinner Club collections.
Did you have a mentor?
I never had a mentor in the literary sense but did have one at high school. Thanks to my fragmented primary education, my Maths was all over the place when I started secondary. Then in my second year came Mr Moore, a fabulous young teacher and a very nice guy, who was one of very few people who listened to and understood me, alongside helping me with my work. Thanks to him, I was in top set for Maths a year later. I’m pleased to say he’s now Head of a school in London, where he’s invited me to give author workshops at some point.
How did you first get into professional writing?
I was fifteen and having a meal with my parents and then-girlfriend at a fabulous restaurant called the Alacadoo. One of my teachers from special school came in and she was involved with a local magazine for the disabled. She asked me to write an article on life for disabled kids at secondary school. I did it, it was edited without reference to me and I was never paid for it! But little by little I worked my way up via magazine articles, educational journals, and then started to have fiction published. I wrote part-time for about fourteen years and then took the plunge into full-time writing in 2011 when The Alien in the Garage was published and I began my Master’s in Creative Writing, for which the creative work was the book you’ve just reviewed, Childish Spirits.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve followed in the footsteps of Shakespeare with regular visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, also Wordsworth and Coleridge at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and Jane Austen in Bath. For my own work I’ve visited lots of stately homes, castles and country estates, which was good material for the various Journeyback houses and castles in the Spirits series.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book Childish Spirits?
I’ve been surprised by the number of media to which the story lends itself. It began life as a rejected idea for a TV series and I then turned the rejected script into the book – the first six chapters are effectively a novelisation of that script. I still have hopes it may appear on TV someday. It’s since been a paperback (longlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award and nominated for the People’s Book Prize), an ebook and is now an audiobook, read by the actor Sally Millest. So in a sense we’ve come full circle as it was originally written to be performed and now it has!
What was the most difficult scene to create in Childish Spirits?
Without giving too much away, it’s probably the scene where Ellie finds the old letters and the mystery of what happened at Inchwood Manor finally makes sense to her. I remember my uni tutor was concerned that these were “adults’ letters” and would be boring to a child audience. But I think I overcame that by placing Ellie, then a young child, right at the centre of the scene and showing her awe as the past opens up to her. It’s a pivotal moment and she then realises what she has to do to help Edward, the Victorian boy ghost.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes, sometimes – especially in the final Spirits novel, The Coming of the Spirits, which was published earlier this year. There’s a secret word hidden across the very start of each of the opening chapters, and at the time I posted a challenge on my Twitter which stated that the first person who sent me the correct word would receive a free signed copy of the book. But so far, no one has found it! The offer is still open – I’m willing to offer a free signed copy to readers within the UK, or a free download of the Childish Spirits audiobook elsewhere – to the first person who emails or DMs me that word!
There’s also a lot of bonus material on the Extras page of my website. For Childish Spirits there are deleted scenes, a writing activity and a quiz. And there are various Easter Eggs hidden around the site, with rare material and even a bonus short story concealed somewhere! See what you can find.
What do you think of modern children’s literature?
There are some very good authors out there and I particularly like Francesca Simon, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson. In some other quarters I’m concerned that ‘dumbing down’ has taken place and there’s a lot of crudeness and toilet humor in books for younger children. I’m a great believer in not talking down or writing down to them and I think they deserve better than jokes about underwear or bodily functions. People who write crudely for children always seem to cite Roald Dahl as their inspiration, not realizing there was so much more to his work than rude jokes – his stories are dark modern fairy tales in the tradition of European folklore. For myself, I will not use lavatorial humor or unsuitable material in anything I write for children.
My other current concern is this idea that’s got around that “children want to see themselves in books”. While it’s important for books to reflect the society we live in, and I try to make mine as inclusive and diverse as possible, I think it’s slightly odd to assume we can only empathize with characters who look exactly like us. This promotes division rather than inclusivity, by compartmentalizing individuals into categories. There is so much more to people than their gender, race, cultural background or disability, and we need to show children those who are different from ourselves, or may appear to be, but underneath are fellow human beings with hopes, fears, aspirations and personal tragedies just like our own. I’ve a great distrust of the “tickbox” approach to inclusivity, knowing from personal experience that it only scratches the surface and does nothing to eliminate real prejudice and discrimination.
What does literary success look like to you?
Is that what this is?! That’s good to know. Seriously, I feel very fortunate, having first been rejected for the profession I trained for (the law) and then been made redundant three times, that I now have a job I love, which I can do from home, and which has had an unbelievable degree of success and brought pleasure to many children and adults.
What’s next for you?
I’m busy promoting The Coming of the Spirits in paperback and Childish Spirits in its new ebook and audiobook forms. Then after that I have my first standalone novel for older children ready and waiting, which I hope will be published next year. Meanwhile I’m about to start running a Creative Writing course for adults and have a school workshop booked for the autumn term. Visit my website and Twitter to find out all the latest news!
For those of you who own an APPLE device, this giveaway is open to you! This giveaway is different and unique because it has new rules. The VERY FIRST person to answer this question correctly in the comments below will win a free eBook code emailed to them as well as the instructions on how to activate it.. Note: ONLY APPLE DEVICES WILL BE ABLE TO ACCESS THE CODE! Million-dollar (or more like eBook dollar 😉 ) question: How old was Rob Keeley when he did his first professional work as a writer? Please, only answer this question if you own an Apple device, so as not to spoil it for those who do. The answer to that question is found somewhere in this post. Look hard, and answer quick!
Special thanks to the author, Rob Keeley, requesting a review, being willing to do an interview, taking the time to answer the questions in depth, and for sponsoring this giveaway. Make sure to check out the awesome Childish Spirits, as well as, the rest of his books!