Sibling heroes take on a sinister river troll. But will they live to tell the tale?
A month after their run-in with a vampire in Transylvania (The Vampire Knife, 2018), Anna, Max, and their father arrive in foggy England at the Goat’s Beard Hotel. Max’s bloodless, lifeless hand is a gray-white memento of the dangers that come with their newfound knowledge of “fairy-monsters” that exist alongside humans. Mystery soon finds the family again as they learn of a missing boy. Local nursery rhymes warn of a child-snatcher named Mr. Shellycoat, a clear clue that something monstrous is afoot. With Anna’s magical knife at the ready, the siblings trudge toward Mr. Shellycoat’s river, where their curiosity leads them to a troll’s bridge. The toll to cross: blood or gold—or else become the next kids to disappear. In a clear homage to “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” Australian author Henseleit weaves a new spin on the trend of modern Brothers Grimm series. The fast pace and plenty of cliffhanger chapter endings will keep readers invested in the story. Though few in number, Andrews’ detailed, scratchy-lined ink illustrations evoke animated cinema with a gothic twist. Italicized Norwegian phrases appear untranslated in a few conversations; the text offers context clues to help unfamiliar readers decode. The cast is presumed white by default.
Trip-trap. This excellent, eerie folkloric fare will thrill young readers. (Fantasy/mystery. 8-12)