Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

First published in 2012

Ghost Knight is cute and fun; a great story for both girls and boys with just the right mix of humour, genuine thrills and a positive message. Jon moves to boarding school and finds himself the victim of a band of ghosts intent on killing him for revenge, because they have a long history with Jon’s family lineage. With the help of his new best friend Ella, and the ghost of a noble knight with a debt to fulfil, Jon fights back and learns courage and humility in the process.

Fabulous settings – a boarding school, old cathedrals, haunted moors – this is the stuff adventure stories are made of! All of it is based, of course, on real places and people – Salisbury Cathedral in England, the knight William Longspee, and numerous other references dotted throughout. You can tell Funke loves the material she is working with, and is also having great fun with it. This is fabulous because it helps the book steer away from being a dry history lesson masquerading as a story. Ghost Knight is genuinely quite creepy and your heart will pound right along with Jon and Ella as they race from place to place, trying to stay one step ahead of the ghastly spirits.

Ghost Knight has plenty of funny moments – a lot of it silly, and a lot of it coming from Jon’s distaste of his mum’s new boyfriend, ‘The Beard’. This is humour that never tries too hard and is quite charming, and Jon’s dry asides help to alleviate the more thrilling moments so that younger children will not get scared.

The two central characters – Jon and Ella – are wonderful, and their relationship at that exact age I love – where they go from the ‘I Hate Boys/Girls’ stage to realising there might actually be some attraction there. Jon does have a little crush on Ella but the two form a lovely friendship and a strong bond. Ella has a bit of Hermione in her, and Jon just a touch of Ron, but together they are a great team and it is nice to see this in children’s books. Peripheral characters are strong too, whether they are human or otherwise – well-rounded and lacking ‘cariacture’ qualities.

Most of all I love how this book is presented – it is a gorgeous little volume and the black and white illustrations are some of the best I’ve seen in a children’s book – gorgeous, informative, and totally enhancing the story. I found Ghost Knight to be a real winner and would recommend it whole-heartedly to the 8-11 age group.

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