From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Victims of busy parents, Madlyn, 11, and Rollo, 9, go to stay with an eccentric cast of relatives at Clawstone Castle. Along with Great-Aunt Emily, her brother Great-Uncle George, and no-longer-living Cousin Howard, the real attraction is the legendary and noble Wild White Cattle herd. The children join the family's endeavors to support the animals by turning the place into a museum, but when the bovines are cow-napped, each family member plays a part in their return, along with Ibbotson's usual cadre of banshees and ghosts, as well as a pair of Scottish feet. Everything readers like about this author is present in good amounts. From the first chapter, they will make an emotional connection with Madlyn and Rollo and with the impoverished, yet creative castle denizens. While a ghost with a rat munching on its heart may not leave a pleasant feeling in one's stomach, it cannot be denied that it is memorable, even more so when Ibbotson convinces readers to pity the rat. She deftly brings in such contemporary issues as land development, animal rights, and the environment without creating an obvious message. The story's quest pattern (find the cows!) makes the plot easy to follow and well structured, accompanied by humorous and disgusting details aplenty. Hawkes's whimsical, full-page line drawings are scattered throughout. More of a page-turner than some of Ibbotson's recent stories, this novel will find a following among readers of Suzanne Collins's Gregor the Overlander
(Scholastic, 2003) or Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series (HarperCollins).–Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT
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Eleven-year-old Madlyn and her younger brother, Rollo, are sent to stay with their great-aunt and -uncle Clawstone at crumbling Clawstone Castle, only to be embroiled in the castle's financial troubles; the castle must attract more paying visitors to maintain its legendary herd of Wild White cattle. To compete with a nearby attraction, the castle needs some chills and thrills, so the Clawstones select some vulgar, terrifying ghosts and set up such a frightening show that tourists scream, faint, and retch--only to return with their friends. Through the machinations of some unknown persons, however, the Clawstones lose the cattle, leaving the children (and the ghosts) with a mystery to solve. Plot embellishments are sometimes distracting, and the convoluted story comes together in a series of coincidences. Ibbotson's charismatic ghosts are great, however------as human as they are horrific--and there's plenty of quirky humor in this energetic, diverting read, loaded with charm. Krista HutleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved