Friday, 25 August 2017

As They Grow Older - Running Review 1.

Stephen Cashmore, who for his sins a previous life proofreads ST, has written a collection of ghost stories for children. Jolly interesting they are, too, as examples of the genre - they were all written to be read aloud. I will review As They Grow Older in bits over the next few days. You can find the book here. It is illustrated - rather nicely - by S.J. Thiel and from each sale £1 goes to cancer research.

In his introduction Stephen explains that he began writing stories when his first three children were aged four to eight. By the time he finished they were sixteen to twenty, so the stories had to grow more mature over time.

Not surprisingly the first tale, 'The Toyman' is a simple spooky shocker. Written for Hallowe'en, it is a cautionary tale of children who leave their toys lying all over the place. Their parents warn them that this untidiness risks summoning the eponymous bogey. So they tidy up nicely for the first time ages. But did they miss something? Oh yes.

'Nearly Nine', the second story, is very short and amounts to a meditation on a child's imagination. It reminded me of my own childhood, particularly the way in which a wakeful boy's racing imagination can conjure up anything in the dark. And, in this case, it succeeds in spades.

'Christmas Wishes' falls into the broad class of gentler, Yuletide ghost stories - at least at first. Sarah writes a note to Santa with a typical list of wishes for presents. Then she becomes convinced that there is Something on the roof, and that it will reach down the chimney and grab Dad's hands as he puts the note on the fire. Of course, that's silly... But something even worse happens. There's a touch of 'The Monkey's Paw' about this one, as well as a heartwarming twist ending.

'The Grumpy Browns' takes us back to the Hallowe'en tale and the typical case of folk who do not like this 'trick or treat' malarkey. Mr and Mrs Brown devise a nasty little trick to scare children who have the temerity to knock on their door. But what is supposed to be a fake haunting backfires in a story with a whiff of early Ray Bradbury about it.

And that's the first batch from this new review. Stay tuned for more!

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