Publisher Name
Neem Tree Press
Age Range
Release Date
August 06, 2024
Uncover a world of dark magic, forbidden adventures and family secrets when a spooky fairground returns to Victorian London.
Adopted by a family of bakers, 12-year-old orphan Nancy Crumpet's life is a delightful mix of flour, salt, and love, yet her mind is brimming with questions no one can answer. Where are her birth parents? Why must she keep her mysterious birthmark hidden? And why are all the adults terrified of the fairground?

Faced with an opportunity to enter the Scareground, Nancy and her best friend discover a place of dark magic, where rides come to life and there's a mystery around every corner. When she meets the fair's sinister owner, Skelter, Nancy faces secrets more horrifying than she could ever have imagined.

Editor review

1 review
An eerie macabre tale
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The author carefully crafts a mysterious plot as there are strange rumors about the Oxleas Wood outside of town. A fair once visited there and two people were killed in a tragic lightning strike. Nancy’s adoptive parents mention a ghost carriage and they secretly whisper about not letting anyone take her away. Mentioning the word fair fills them with dread. But why would anyone want to steal her away from her adopted parents and why must she keep the horse-shaped mark on her wrist covered? Nancy can’t explain why she feels drawn to the fair and her hesitancy to stay away can’t stop her. Sneaking into the night with her best friend Arthur leads to the biggest adventure of their lives but it’s much more than they ever expect. Naming the fair Scareground isn’t by accident.
The author uses vivid, descriptive language to paint imaginative mental images and create strong emotions for readers. “His skin was the white touch of frost…” and “…painted white faces cast a ghostly glow.” Nancy and Arthur hike through the woods to reach Scareground and the author doesn’t rush this part of the story. Anticipation and tension are developed as the characters speculate about what they know and what they might face once they arrive. Black feathers are used to allow admittance. The kids agree the word macabre is fitting, Arthur’s father calls it celebrating the darker side of life, as they consider things they’ve heard and experienced. In darkness “… roses appear black and the taste of sugar burns your tongue” and the dark “… makes you forget the beauty of things…” The characters are frightened before the show even starts and the appearance of Skelter Tombola doesn’t disappoint.
Character relationships are a large part of the story as Nancy doesn’t remember her parents. She loves her adoptive parents but they won’t talk about her past. Nancy has a special connection with Arthur although she doesn’t fully realize it. She’s afraid to confess some of her secrets to him because she thinks he might not like her anymore. She doesn’t want to tell him she’s a skyreader. She likes to sit on the rooftops and talk to the sky and it becomes an additional, non-speaking character. The sky changes colors to express its feelings and it controls the weather to protect Nancy, even when she ignores its warnings. This link between Nancy and the sky is quite unusual and will capture reader interest.
What didn’t work as well:
Nancy’s connection to the Scareground is very predictable so readers are well aware of where the plot is headed. There’s a small twist with a shadow demon but the face-off during the climax doesn’t live up to the anticipation. However, the story is still spooky and should entertain young readers.
The final verdict:
The book’s title appropriately describes the story and will appeal to readers who enjoy spookiness. Vivid descriptions will tingle readers’ nerves. Overall, I recommend you give this book a shot.
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