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This is a spooky little tale aimed at children in the 8-12 age bracket. It tells the story of Fliss and her classmates who go on a residential school trip to Whitby. On the night before she leaves for the trip Fliss dreams of a hotel at night, where her feet seem to mysteriously develop a will of their own and take her past buildings and rooms where a spooky voice whispers things like 'The Gate of Fate', 'The Keep of Sleep', and 'The Room of Doom'. She is even more spooked the next day to have a boy in her class tell her that Dracula once lived in Whitby. When they arrive at their hotel it is very like Fliss's dream. On the floor Fliss and her mates are sleeping there is a room 10, 11 and 12. Then there is the unnumbered linen closest. On the first night Fliss is disturbed by someone crying and decides to take a trip to the bathroom to see if she could use that as an excuse to investigate. On the way back she notices that the linen cupboard now has the number 13 on it. It is not there the next morning. One of Fliss's classmates becomes ill, they see her sleepwalking in the middle of the night and on investigating Fliss discovers that there are two tiny puncture wounds on the side of her neck. As Fliss and her three friends get drawn further into the mystery they realise that they have to do something about the creature in Room 13. The clues are very carefully drip-fed into the novel and the characters well-drawn and realistic, each with their own set of worries. The three teacher in charge of the class are also interesting and have distinct personalities. They behave in realistic and credible ways. The whole story is told with a good deal of suspense yet Swindells manages to mix in a fair amount of humour as well. I think it is this careful balance that makes it such a success. I read this book to my class each year, usually just before we go off on our residential trip (I know, I'm a saddist!) and they love it. They laugh in all the right places, and when it gets to the climax of the story you can hear a pin drop in my classroom, they barely even breathe. If they only remember one of the stories I read them I can practically guarantee that this is it.
First published in 1989, this children's horror book became a sensation for my twelve year old friends and I after we discovered it in the school library. Word of mouth made this book so sought after that in order to guarantee getting to read it we had to share it between our groups of friends or read it out loud together. We had so little chance to get our hands on it that we had to read it on our journey home from school! A few facts about the book make it tantalising to young fans of horror or chiller stories. Firstly, printed inside the jacket of the book is the claim that this story was inspired by a real school trip to Whitby in 1987. Furthermore, the author dedicates the book to a class full of pupils who he claims "were there too". Thirdly, there is a shocking feature of the book where the chapter 13 (unlucky for some!) has been completely left blank. This seemed to me, as a young reader, so daring and different from the norm that I felt this book must really be something special. The story centres on a group of school children who are on a sleeping-over school trip to Whitby. During the trip the children learn about how author Bram Stoker was inspired to write the classic Gothic novel 'Dracula' when he saw the eerie ruins of Whitby Abbey. This is a brilliant learning experience and a subtle introduction to the adult literature. Readers who are unfamiliar with the existence of Stoker's novel are provided with a simple explanation of where and how the character of Dracula was created. This story is really a paean to the classic Stoker novel with a similar tale of vampire suckings and night terrors ensuing. Although there is a high degree of horror and a quite often a feeling of dread there is also a margin of humour and lots of childish fun. The novel is as educational as it is enjoyable fun. To give the story credibility there are some references to eighties vampire movies although the relevance of this is now probably lost on today's readers. There are also a few references to historical events, to real life landscapes and works of art which may inspire some readers to investigate them further after reading the book. I felt very close to the characters when I first read this book. There is definately a 'northern' feel to the language and manner of interaction between the children's characters. As someone who lives in the North of England I felt I could very easily identify with the setting of the novel and the atmosphere of the location and attitude of society. I think that all children could read this and imagine themselves in Whitby though - as the description is very deatailed with rich, poetic language detailing the experience of the senses. I love this book so much that when I was a university student I found this in my local library and read it again for enjoyment! I have since bought the book and have given it to my neices to read, who have absolutely loved it. Although now twenty years old this story still translates to a new generation. This book won the Children's Book Award in 1990, the winner of which is chosen by children - I can't think of a better endorsement! It is a relatively short story and I would say it's suitable for ages 8 to 12 and for all readers of all capabilities. This book has been re-printed numerous times and is currently published by Corgi Childrens Books. Also available as an audio CD.
After recently reading two novels by Robert Swindells – Brother in the Land and Abomination – I felt I had become quite a fan, even if he is a children’s’ writer and I’m 33! So I bought another of his and borrowed two more from the library. This is my review of Room 13, a novel published in 1989 and the winner of the 1990 Children’s Book Award. Room 13 is a horror or thriller type of book for children aged around ten to fourteen, I would say. At just over 150 pages long, it is easy to read and after a slightly hesitant start, I finished the last hundred pages or so in one sitting. The chapters are fairly short throughout, which means they don’t look too daunting for kids. Each one begins with a black and white illustration of a gate, each time featuring a different picture inside, which symbolises the content or theme of that chapter. The story is based round Felicity ‘Fliss’ Morgan. The night before her year go on the annual school trip to Whitby, she has a terrifyingly vivid nightmare about a room with the number thirteen on it and what lies within. In the morning, she feels much better and sets out for Whitby as planned with the rest of the second year of the school, which is amusingly(?) called Bottomtop Middle! As they reach their hotel in Whitby, the dream comes back to haunt Fliss as she sees familiar places and things, which remind her of aspects of her nightmare. She is allocated a room on the top floor, but thankfully there appears not to be a room numbered thirteen there. However, on the first night, when she needs to go to the toilet around midnight, things change. The number thirteen appears on a door which is supposedly a cupboard, there are strange noises coming from within the room and one of the pupils – Ellie-May – becomes ill. Fliss soon recruits her friend Lisa and two boys, Gary and Trot, to help her investigate what is happening. The book follows their adventures over the few days they stay there, the mysteries of the night contrasting sharply with the usual paddling in the sea, sightseeing and shopping normally associated with school trips. Although I don’t know Whitby personally, the descriptions seem authentic and it is easy to picture everything from the language used. Bizarrely, there is a note in the book, which explains the novel was inspired by a real school trip in 1987 and the novel is dedicated to all the pupils who were there. I suspect the true story might have been more captivating. Overall, I found this novel disappointing. It was well paced and easy to get into. Parts of it were written in a way which meant it was hard to put down, but the whole thing seemed unbelievable and predictable. While it was cleverly constructed, it seemed just too formulaic at times. It felt like it could have been the novel of any old Hammer horror film towards the end. Of course, these views are those of a cynical adult who has read countless novels and expects more from her reading material. Children will probably accept Room 13 more on face value and get more out of it. I intend to test this theory soon, by lending the book to my eleven-year-old son to read. He likes spooky stories and this one might fit the bill. Swindells writes very well and describes the characters of the children reasonably convincingly. I did find some of the slang rather grating though – I mean, do kids really call each other ‘div’ these days and has anyone ever used the phrase ‘scared spitless’ [sic] in their lives? Maybe they did when the book was written in 1989, but it sounds strange now. The teachers also seemed rather two-dimensional and often stereotypical. Would a teacher really get away with banging a child’s head against a coach seat for misbehaving? Or seeming rather unconcerned at an apparent assault by four pupils on one, which resulted in severe bruising? I think not. Perhaps a child would revel in these things being seen from their viewpoint or maybe they’d be so caught up in the action, they wouldn’t notice these aberrations. But I did. If your child has grown out of Enid Blyton and likes something a bit more eerie for their bedtime reading, Room 13 may provide you with a few hours of peace as they devour it under the covers. It may turn out to be the best book they’ve read to date. For me, I found it an average kind of spooky story, written well in some respects but ultimately cliched and uninspiring. I recommend the author, but the jury’s out on the book. ROOM 13 by Robert Swindells Published by Corgi Yearling ISBN 0-440-86465-8 Paperback, £4.99
After re-reading and really enjoying Robert Swindell's Post Nuclear story Brother in the Land I was inspired to read one of his other books (a boy returned it in the library and I snaffled it for myself) ~ Room 13. Room 13 is a very different story to Brother in the Land and I vaguely remembered reading it years ago. I once read that the reason that children, young adults and teenagers like Swindell's books is because they are not too long, keep your interest and are pretty easy to read (by this I mean the use of language and not the subject matter ~ I wouldn't call the images used in Brother in the Land particularly "easy"). Room 13 seems to fit this Swindells pattern; it isn't long, it is written for a young audience (Swindells was even aided by a group of young children to come up with some of the plot twists) and uses young people as its main characters. So, would I as a thirty something adult find something of interest in Room 13. ~~~THE STORY. Room 13 begins on the night before a school trip to Whitby. Fliss (the main character) has a really bad nightmare about a rather sinister looking house with an even more sinister looking secret room ~ Room 13. She is disturbed by the dream but puts it out of her mind until she arrives at their hotel in Whitby. The Crow's Nest Hotel looks suspiciously like the house in the dream of the previous night ~ her hair stands on end and she is very worried that her dreams of Room 13 will come true! On their first investigation Fliss and her friends can't find a room 13 ~ but once night falls spooky things start to occur. What follows is a scary story of Vampires and the realisation of the feeling Fliss had on arriving at the Crow's Nest. I don't want to give too much away, but it is full of suspense and the atmosphere of Whitby provides a good backdrop for the Vampire elements of the story. ~~~WHAT I THOUGHT. Room 13 is essentially a book for o lder children and younger teenagers, so don't expect too much in the way of complicated plot devices. That said, it is still an interesting story with some good imagery, a very good sense of place (the backdrop of Whitby is well used) and the action ticks along nicely ~ you do get some twists and turns in there, but the story IS quite predictable. This is perhaps where the book lets us down ~ Fliss has a dream; low and behold THERE is the house from the dream and of course we can then all guess that there is going to be a Room 13 with some funny things going on! I did find that the story was good though and the minor irritation at the "obviousness" of the plot didn't prevent me from enjoying the adventure and the mystery of the School Trip. The story is written from the perspective of Fliss herself, so the words used are those that a young girl would use. We really only get to see things from her viewpoint, but because she IS pretty much a central element of the plot this works very well. There is a good mix between the spooky scenes and images of the children exploring and enjoying a school trip ~ eating rock, looking at the scenery, etc. You may find some of Swindell's descriptions of the trip irrelevant but I think they are necessary to introduce some normality to the children's trip and to provide a balance for the supernatural elements ~ it will make younger children remember that not everything is spooky and they shouldn't have nightmares! I would say this book is more suitable for an older child who is pretty good at reading ~ a younger child would still enjoy the story but may find some of the words difficult and the images a little scary (there are vampires and spooky things happening). I enjoyed it because I could identify with the setting; I have been to Whitby several times and love the place. It may be of interest to children who have also been to Whitby for holidays ~ I'm not sure if it would be a goo d idea to encourage them to read it BEFORE they go on a trip there (you never know if the hotel they will end up staying at might look like The Crow's Nest!). I actually enjoyed Room 13 and found it refreshing after being depressed by Brother in the Land. Robert Swindells has an ability to write fiction for a young audience, but his work can also appeal to an older audience too. I would certainly recommend Room 13 as an easy reading story for those who want a little scare but don't want to be challenged too much. Take care and don't have nightmares ~ I went to Whitby at the beginning of June and I made sure I remembered to pack my garlic! Book info (courtesy of www.amazon.co.uk) Paperback - 160 pages (5 October, 2000) Corgi Childrens; ISBN: 0440864658 Hardcover - 160 pages (October 1989) Doubleday; ISBN: 0385269676
A spooky tale about a vampire that takes place at the Crow's Nest Hotel, where Fliss and her friends are staying. They think that there's no room 13, but are they sure? Winner of the Children's Book Award in 1990.