Bergmann’s (The Vampire Dingbat, 2014, etc.) picture book reinterprets the legend of the infamous Hound of the Baskervilles in rhyme.
Hearkening to a bygone era—“Three hundred sixty years ago, / During the Great Rebellion”—this short book is reminiscent of story poems once read by all schoolchildren, such as “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. Bergmann recounts the origin of the ancient curse of the Baskervilles, triggered when Sir Hugo Baskerville kidnaps a young woman and imprisons her in his estate. While Baskerville and his companions party downstairs, the nameless maiden attempts a daring escape: “Without a single glance down, / She climbed out on the ledge. / Her feet paddled in space / Then gripped below the edge.” Evil Sir Hugo sets out in pursuit across the moors. His guests, following cautiously behind, spy a “great, black beast” standing over Sir Hugo, and thus a legend is born. Brayer’s richly detailed illustrations, rendered in stark blacks and grays, enhance the overall old-fashioned style of the text. True to its source, the book looks and reads like a ghost story from another era. Some obscure words—e.g., “goyal” for ravine—are appropriate choices, but a glossary would help young readers. Occasionally, the rhymes seem forced (“fell” with “saddle,” for example), but these instances are rare and do not distract from the forward momentum of the tale. Despite being a picture book, this is still a horror story—a pretty frightening one at that. The slightly gruesome illustrations and somewhat mature content may make this book an unsuitable choice for very young readers. However, this exciting recounting should motivate many middle-grade readers to seek out the famous Sherlock Holmes novel that inspired it.
A stylistic, spine-tingling homage to a classic.