The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

Written by Janet Fox
Review by Lorraine Norwood

Janet Fox, a former high school English teacher, has written a middle-grade novel sure to have students arriving at school bleary-eyed after staying up all night to finish this thrilling mystery.

Heroine Kat Bateson, age 12, and her siblings have been sent to Rookskill Castle in Scotland to escape the Nazi bombing of London during World War II. The castle is remote and sinister, and its inhabitants appear drugged. Only the mistress of Rookskill, Lady Eleanor, appears normal – and that’s not saying much, since she can’t be trusted. The children soon hear strange noises at night and wonder if the castle is haunted. To save herself and the children at Rookskill, Kat must answer two questions: Is the castle haunted? Or is there a Nazi spy lurking in its dark corners?

The mystery revolves around a belt-like piece of jewelry called a chatelaine, which is at the center of the World War II chapters and the time-switching chapters set in the 1740s. The time switches should be no problem for middle-graders used to fantasy and time travel novels. Children ages 10 and over will find this clever story creepy and thrilling. Readers who are easily frightened may want to wait until they are older.

Fox’s ending wraps up the mystery but leaves open the possibility that Kat will be back – and so will the magic.An excellent book, highly recommended.