Review Detail

Kids Fiction 2804
Smile for the camera...
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Fox and Josie like to hang around their father's auction house near Athens, Ohio and snag some of the cooler stuff for themselves. They occasionally bring along younger brother Mason, as well, especially since their mom has passed away, although their aunt and uncle have moved in to try to help out. When Fox (who likes to have his own auctions and claim that items are haunted) finds a Polaroid camera that spits out pictures of a creepy guy in polyester whom they soon find out is John Goodrich, whose tragic story is the stuff of local legends. Goodrich and his wife spent a lot of their time and money trying to avert tragedies around town only to have a mudslide kill Mrs. Goodrich but spare John and his house. Fox's father has been contracted to auction off the estate, but his leg is badly broken when visiting the house. Did he really see the legendary Mothman? Josie finds a pin that gives her visions of various stages of the Mothman curse, with which she is now saddled. Another tragedy is going to hit Athens, and the Mothman's presence is presaging it, but no one believes the children. Can they find a way to save everyone and cast off the curse as well?

Josie and Fox make a terrific brother-sister team. Not only do they work the auction house well and are helpful to their family, but they also do a fantastic job at figuring out the Mothman curse and dealing with it in an effective manner. Fox starts off the book as kind of a goof, but manages to become more serious, and Josie goes from being a fearful shadow of her brother to being the kind of girl who is willing to sacrifice herself if that is the only recourse. Their mother is dead, which was an unnecessary bit of sadness, but they are handling their grief well. The other adults in their lives are supportive and helpful.

The use of local legend, landmarks and lore works very well and makes for a story that is much creepier than the cartoonish cover would indicate. Like the southeastern Ohio setting in Black's Doll Bones, this view of Athens is a bit gritty and macabre, but never devolves into "hillbilly" stereotypes. The descriptions of place don't weigh the book down at all, but are deftly worked into a plot that is well paced and which has its share of action and suspense.

A haunted Polaroid has been used before, in the Scholastic Poison Apple Now You See Me, but this works, too! I was glad that the camera in Mothman's Curse didn't require film!
Good Points
This is a great title to hand to students who adore scary movies and would rather watch those than read, and a better written alternative to R.L. Stine books. There is always a demand for creepy books for middle grade readers, and this is deliciously spine-tingling but won't keep anyone awake at night. For too long, anyway!
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