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Long Lankin
Lindsey Barraclough

July 10, 2012 /ASIN: B00887OVKC (Kindle)
Tweener / Horror / Ages 12 & up / Grade 7 & up / (1958 English countryside)

Reviewed by Beth E. McKenzie

"Fairy tales don't teach children that monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed" - G K. Chesterton

There is a problem at Guerdon Hall. For generations the little ones have disappeared as have the adults who get in the way. Now, after living through two World Wars, Ida Eastfield hides behind locked doors with nailed windows, plugged chimneys and the memories of her losses: a brother, a son, her fiancé, her husband, a niece, the children of neighbors. And now that new little girls are in The Hall, the beast is on the prowl again.

The niece, Anne, and her older sister, Susan, were sent to the countryside from London to avoid the dangers of the German bombing raids during WWII. Anne disappeared while the older children at the hall were hiding from her and Susan has never recovered from the guilt. Now the mother to Cora and Elizabeth (Mimi), Susan is in an asylum and girls have been shipped off to their great-Aunt Ida for care. There is no way for their father to know that they would be safer running wild on the streets of their Limehouse neighborhood than in the seemingly bucolic Bryers Guerdon.

There are two lessons in this book. The first is for adults. Children can't help protect themselves if they don't know the dangers, communicate with them, "because I said so" may be expedient, but it isn't good enough in the long haul. The second is for children. Even seemingly senseless rules are probably for your own good, obey them, but keep asking why it is important.

As an adult, I found this book very scary until it was evident Long Lankin was a supernatural beast as opposed to a human stalker of children. In the early parts of the book you know and the story's adults know the children are being hunted, but the kids don't. They go along and do normal kiddie things like ride their bikes, eat sweets, get dirty and go where they were told not to go, exploring their world. It could be that I was less frightened because as they become aware of the danger they are more cautious and less innocent; less vulnerable. It could also be that my "modern" mind is less likely to believe in the bogey man when we have so much evidence of human monsters. I think this well-told story will scare the recommended age group, and if they are lucky, their parents as well.

Reviewer's Note:
Reviewed 2012