Good Goth Fun

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (2013).

By their snickers and belly laughs, you will know which upper-elementary students are reading the rollicking adventures of Ada Goth and her Attic Club cronies.

Readers will root and hoot for Ada as she leads the charge to rescue an assemblage of outlandish, hybrid creatures that have been lured to her father’s Gothic mansion by the dastardly foil Maltravers.

The kids take up the mantle in the absence of help from Lord Goth, a distracted poet despondent over the death of Ada’s mother, a tightrope walker. Because she bears an unbearable resemblance to her fallen mother, Ada is forced to wear clunky, thudding boots that alert Lord Goth to scramble and hide when she approaches.

The book’s plotlines are transparently thin, and that plays perfectly for the intended audience.

Riddell hatches three main conflicts that proceed toward tidy resolution in the course of 220 pages. The central plot requires rescue of the hapless creatures. A subplot is the question of whether Lord Goth, who studiously shields himself from emotional affronts, can grow to embrace and express his love for his daughter.

The third strand begs the question of whether the Ghost of a Mouse, who reluctantly haunts the mansion, can finish the business that is keeping him from going into the light. That is, quite literally, a story unto itself; tucked into a pocket in the back of the book is a tiny volume entitled, “Memoirs of a Mouse” by Ishmael Whiskers.

The design of the book is something to behold, reminding us that eBooks can only take the reader so far. Purple foil dazzles the edges of the pages, setting off the smooth and sumptuous black cover when the book is closed. The front matter has a black background overlain by repeating medallions of silver-foil  skulls. All in all, the presentation is very goth.

With this book, author/illustrator Riddell, a political cartoonist by day, reveals himself as the original Kid Who Never Grew Up.”  His meticulous, zany pen and ink work could come from the meandering mind of a fifth grader whose doodles are being rudely interrupted by the ramblings of a math teacher.

The book solidly hits the mark for kids in grades three through five, and the physical beauty of the volume renders it a perfect gift that is worthy of becoming a keepsake.

~ Mr. Steve