Charlie and the Grandmothers

Written by Katy Towell
Review by Arleigh Johnson

In this young adult Victorian-era, lightly gothic tale, a brother and sister find themselves imprisoned by a pair of ghoulish grandmothers at an equally morbid farmhouse that seems to come to life with changing corridors and disappearing doors. For 12-year-old Charlie Oughtt, a slightly obsessive, easily distressed boy, it is a nightmare come true. His adventurous sister, Georgie, enjoys the journey until a real evil emerges and the two must fight to survive.

Early in the book there is a definitive late 19th-century theme, with mention of the customs and inventions of the time, though a year is not specified. Later, some surprising historical references emerge, making this fit more within the historical fiction genre, rather than the fantasy and horror aspect that is apparent.

The author has imaginatively combined bits from popular children’s fables with the psychology behind sleep, dreams and the mind. Though the concept may be a bit confusing for young readers, the characters are endearing, the story moves quickly, and there is the added bonus of gruesome illustrations to match the tone of the narrative. This story will resonate with readers who enjoy slightly macabre tales and imaginative settings rather than straightforward historical fiction.