A Curious Tale of the In-Between

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
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Kinda creepy, kinda sweet ghost story for big kids, tweens.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Occasional depictions of life before the moon landing, such as using a card catalog at the library.

Positive Messages

Life and fate are fragile; things could easily have been very different. There's a reason for everyone you meet: Everyone has an impact on you in some way. Death isn't a punishment, it's just what comes next. The dead leave parts of themselves behind; heroine Pram sees this as benign and comforting because death is not the end.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pram, 11, is smart, determined, and brave. She models changing the subject instead of lying to someone and is loyal to her friends and family. Clarence is a loyal and supportive friend. Pram's aunts are loving, if eccentric, caregivers. The villain is power-hungry, but we learn about her background and how her terrible experiences may have warped an otherwise good person.

Violence & Scariness

A lot of talk about death, ghosts, and the afterlife provide a creepy atmosphere, but all ghosts are benign or even helpful. Heroes are in peril once or twice; a child is thrown into a lake while locked in a cage, and Pram's fright is described. A ghost has a bloody face. Pram speculates about drowning. A past suicide by hanging is mentioned several times and described vaguely once. A past lobotomy of a mental patient is hinted at through mention of a scary-looking medical implement and the patient's fear.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Curious Tale of the In-Between is a ghost story from YA veteran Lauren DeStefano, her first foray into writing for big kids and tweens. Lots of talk about death, ghosts, and the afterlife lend a creepy atmosphere, but all ghosts are benign and many are helpful and friendly. The overall messages about death are positive, in that death is not seen as the end but as "just what comes next." Violence is infrequent and involves mostly vague recountings of the past (including a suicide by hanging), and the heroes are in peril a couple of times. The kids are all good models for friendship, loyalty, and bravery.

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What's the story?

Pram is a very special 11-year-old girl who's been able to see ghosts for as long as she can remember. Even her best friend is a ghost who lives by the pond near Pram's house. After years of being homeschooled by her aunts, it's decided that she should attend regular school. On her first day there, she meets Clarence, and they quickly become friends. Having a real, living friend who needs her help gives Pram the courage to try to find her father, whom she's never met and who might not even know she exists. But getting the answers to her questions leads her and Clarence into the clutches of the mysterious Lady Savant, a spiritualist who says she'll help Pram find what she's looking for. But what does she want in return?

Is it any good?

This is a successful combination of the creepy atmospherics that ghost-story lovers crave with a sweet story about truly selfless friendship. Veteran YA author Lauren DeStefano (The Chemical Garden Trilogy, the Internment Chronicles series) tries her hand at storytelling for a younger age group in A CURIOUS TALE OF THE IN-BETWEEN, and she strikes the right balance between suspenseful chills and heartwarming lessons about the nature of friendship.

Kids and tweens will relate to Pram's struggles to fit in, and they'll admire her quest for answers as she and her friends learn the value of helping others, especially when what they need is not what you want for yourself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why we enjoy ghost stories so much. What do we love about them?

  • Do you believe in ghosts? What do you think happens to us after we die?

  • Pram decides she's old enough to look for her father on her own. Do you think she was right? What else could she have done to find out more about him?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love horror and ghost stories

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