Phew! Now my pulse has returned to somewhere near normal…
Jennifer Killick, author of the hilarious Alex Sparrow series and Mo, Lottie & the Junkers, is back with more middle-grade brilliance. Crater Lake is full of her trademark humour, quirky characters and this time… a big dose of horror.
There is not a plethora of horror books written for children and that’s probably a good thing. But, children do love a good old fright every now and again. Crater Lake is edge of the seat, nail-biting stuff and offers up scares and frights in abundance. And this rip-roaring read has enough references to Hogwarts, Goosebumps, Jurassic Park, YouTube and Asgard to get even the most reluctant readers racing through the pages. It is the kind of book that will be attracting the attention of every 9+ child, even those children who are ‘too cool for books.’
The year six residential, one of the most exciting and important parts of the final year at primary school….unless you are heading to Crater Lake. Lance has had a mixed time at primary school. He is not one of the cool kids, he has an underlying health issue, a complicated home-life and has made himself the assistant head-teacher’s arch-nemesis (his latest unfortunate incident being to lock Trent, the school bully, in the boys toilet). Despite all of this he has high hopes for the break from school and he is full of excitement and anticipation as he and his classmates head towards Crater Lake, the brand new outdoor activity centre.
But things quickly begin to change. Nobody on the coach was expecting to be met by a bloodied and confused staff member, nor were they prepared for the cross-country hike with their luggage. And the lack of staff at the centre does nothing to see ease any concerns and the tomato soup for dinner is really not what anyone needs. Things only continue to get weirder during the night. As the traditional secret midnight feast takes an unexpected turn with all manner of bizarre occurrences. Strange things are happening to those that have fallen asleep and when they wake up…well, they’re not quite the same. Something is definitely not right at Crater Lake. Why is it so hot? Can Lance and his mates survive the night and free themselves and their friends? And will they get some decent food? Whatever happens, they must never fall asleep.
The action comes thick and fast in Crater Lake and there is never a dull moment. Amidst all the mayhem, there are some really positive messages as friendships are put to the test and truths and lies are revealed. As Lance leads his friends on their survival mission against the weird human-wasp characters the group become closer than they have ever been and open up to each other about their lives. Killick has a wonderful knack of creating characters that are relatable to her readers. The conversations that they have are realistic and are so typical of those that children have every day. She has a great understanding of children and their school lives and the read is full of accurate references which make the book so appealing and relevant to its readers.
I’m a primary school teacher and so much of what Killick writes resonated with me - I was laughing and cringing at some of the typical teacher moments that Lance and his friends observe and endure. The rule setting, the reward of stickers for positive behaviour, singing of motivational songs; Killick perfectly captures a teacher who just doesn’t ‘get’ the year six kids.
The read comes with the warning ‘DON’T, EVER, FALL ASLEEP’ and readers will be staying up long past their bedtimes reading this one. I read it in one go! Grab your torch, pull up the covers and whatever you do…‘DON’T, EVER, FALL ASLEEP’.
Recommended for 9+.