From School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up–Beginning with her selection from a group of orphan girls by the aloof Miss Winter, 11-year-old Tabby narrates a tale about her service at Seldom House, a crumbling, remote manor on the English moors. Strange events occur almost immediately: she is given a large room but is locked in at night and soon encounters the eyeless ghost of another young maid named Izzy. Tabby is told that she is to care for the young master, who will arrive shortly. He proves to be a dirty urchin who has a quick temper and imperious manner and is referred to by the old master as “a heathen git.” As the children roam the house, grounds, and surrounding hills, more and more ghosts appear to them. Finally they encounter a group of grimy, moldering maids on the moors. Determined to learn why Izzy seems to be trying to warn her, Tabby explores the manor and finds that a gruesome fate awaits her and her young master. Not until the last chapter do readers discover that this story is a prequel to Wuthering Heights. Dunkle has incorporated real people (Tabitha Aykroyd was the Brontës' housemaid, well-known for telling her young charges “otherworldly tales”), fictional characters (the boy is revealed to be a young Heathcliff), and the ancient Druidic practice of human sacrifice into a tense tale of supernatural doings. Whether or not the story will lead readers to Emily Brontë's classic novel remains to be seen.–Kathryn Kosiorek, formerly at Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, OHα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
If the prospect of a prequel to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights won’t exactly set most kids’ hearts aflutter, the chilling jacket illustration of a pale girl without eyes might do the trick. As prequels go, it’s no Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), but it’s no slouch either, channeling Brontë’s gothic atmosphere for a tale more thoroughly soaked in ghostly mayhem. Eleven-year-old Tabby Aykroyd (modeled after the real-life servant of the Brontës, who allegedly told the sisters many a terrifying tale) is hired out to Seldom House, a moody estate in need of a nursemaid for the new master, a feisty young boy (Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, though here he is referred to as “Himself”). Ghosts are afoot in Seldom House, but that doesn’t flap the unflappable Tabby—what’s scary is that the ghosts are maids, just like her. Arrasmith’s drawings, which begin each chapter, promise an intensity of horror not matched by the understated prose; still, though, Dunkle’s period detail and the delicious pagan rituals of a fantastic, Shirley Jackson–style climax overcome the predictable plot arc. Grades 7-10. --Daniel Kraus