From My Memory
As soon as I decided to begin my Childhood Challenge, I sat down and started making a list of the books I wanted to re-read (and, in many cases, find and re-buy). One book in particular snuck into the back of my mind and stayed there, tickling my memories and giving me vague impressions of a book I used to love. The details that sporadically came to me were vague and not very helpful in my quest to find the book: a boy tried to help a woman trapped in a house; the police didn't believe him; the boy is a student; I was pretty sure the boy was searching for his teacher and found her locked in an old mansion. After frustrating searches, another--more helpful--detail popped into my head: The woman's name was Miss Peacock.
That aided in my search, and yet, you might find it surprising how many books have peacock and disappearance in their titles (I was convinced the book was called The Disappearance of Miss Peacock or some similar title). It took some patience and a lot of searching on Google and Amazon before I found the book I was looking for: Mystery at Peacock Place by M.F. Craig.
It was a good thing I remembered the cover of the book and that I recognized it when I saw it because I was off by a few details. Miss Peacock was not the boy's teacher, nor did the boy being a student have anything to do with the plot. After thinking about my confusion, the only thing I could come up with was that I was mixing this book with Matilda by Roald Dahl (Matilda's teacher is held captive by the mean principle).
At any rate, I was looking forward to re-reading this book, if for no other reason than I couldn't remember what actually happened in the book.
After Re-Reading the Book
As an adult reader, I have to say that the book is a bit contrived in places (e.g., Hobie, the main character, is trapped at one point, and his best friend and sister show up at midnight--on a horse, no less--to save him), but I think younger readers would get a kick out of the mystery and suspense of the story. As I was reading it, I could see why I had liked it so much when I was younger because it moved at a quick pace, had some intriguing twists, and had suspense without being anywhere close to "horror" or "scary." It was a safe sort of suspense.
My adult mind got a bit in the way of being able to just enjoy the story, though. One example is that Hobie often comments on his babysitter's cooking and how it isn't as good as his mother's cooking. He would then go on to describe the dishes his mother prepared and how she did it. The primary thought going through my head is that Hobie's mother's cooking is a heart attack waiting to happen. I got a little queasy reading some of those descriptions, but if you're not a health nut, then it probably wouldn't bother you.
It also gets distracting that so many key points are repeated, which gets redundant for adult readers but could be necessary for younger readers to remember certain important details. Another thing that bothered me is that some descriptions were not thorough enough to truly understand the context; for example, there is a fight scene at the stable, but it was elusive. I wasn't quite sure who was doing what and how Hobie ended up where he did. I would've liked more detail in the fight to bring it to life, but, then again, too much detail could scare younger readers (especially if they read before going to bed).
I have my adult issues with the book, but I wouldn't hesitate to tell a young reader to borrow it from the library (or buy it on Amazon, where copies are selling for as little as $0.50). The reviews I found online tend to be on the negative side for the book, which leaves me wondering if I was able to connect with the story because I remember liking it when I was younger or if it’s just a story you’re either going to like/dislike. I don't think it deserves a negative review, but I would say it is for younger readers and not more mature ones.
What have you re-read lately?