Batrisha and the Creepy Caretaker


Publication Date: 15 Jan. 2022
Format: Hardback

ISBN 9780994362353

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    Reviews and Awards

    "I loved the drawing style and rhyme (and so did my Mum)": Hilda, age 9.

    "I love it!!! It's so cool at the start - all the describing words. It kept me very interested. I love what happened after Old Joe and Batrisha told their stories." Zoe, age 13.


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    "Gloomwood Hollow Cemetery. A dark, forgotten place, visited once a year by its creepy caretaker, Old Joe. Now for the very first time, someone else is there, sitting in the shadows, waiting. A pale, dark-haired little girl and her two-tailed cat, hungering for the perfect scary story."

    A short horror story for younger readers. The prose of the story has been written in easy-to-read poetry. An illustration on each page highlights the gist of the text.

    The story progresses at reasonable pace for the younger readers, and the illustrations are sharp and clear.  A limited colour palette simplifies the reading experience, and eventually the artwork adds to the growing horror to the story.

    Although aimed for all ages, this fun reading experience will be best appreciated for the mid-primary school audience and will appeal to their growing sense of the world, and all creatures on the boundaries of this world! It's a story that will stay with the reader for a good while after reading it.

    Information

    Book Type: Junior Chapter
    Age Group: 9 years +
    Traffic Lights: Amber
    Class Novel: No
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 4/5

    Review

    One dark night, a caretaker makes his way through a graveyard and comes across a surprising figure: a young girl, Batrisha, dressed in red. She asks what he’s doing there, and the caretaker explains that he keeps the graveyard clean and tidy. It’s a place that has been mostly forgotten, so he only comes once a year. He’s highly confused to see another person there.

    Batrisha explains that she likes to stay in graveyards because they’re peaceful. She also takes care of the graveyard in her own way—piecing together old headstones, replacing scattered bones, scaring away mice. She offers the caretaker some strange food and asks if he has any good stories.

    He tells her of a man who, while out walking with his dog, fell down and hit his head. Though the dog went to fetch a doctor, he unfortunately passed away. The dog stayed by his grave and protected it from passers-by. Batrisha says the story would have been better if the man’s hand lifted the coffin lid to give his dog one last pat.

    The caretaker leaves, saying that his name is “Old Joe”. Batrisha notices that the headstone they were sitting on is for “Joe McGoo” and that it’s the anniversary of his death. Batrisha comments that Joe’s story was good after all, and goes to bed.

    A fun, spooky story told all in rhyming verse accompanied by striking illustrations in black, blue, and red. The text is curlicued and set in boxes with flourishes, evoking the dialogue cards in silent movies. Though there are spooky elements, this has the feel of a story that gets told around campfires—simple yet creepy but fun rather than gruesome or horrifying. 

    The plot twist at the end, where the strange girl who lives in a graveyard is completely normal while the caretaker may or may not be a ghost, is a very entertaining one. This would be a good book to introduce young readers to suspense, setting up expectations, foreshadowing, and plot twists.

    Themes

    scary stories, horror, suspense, pets, loyalty, plot twists

    Content Notes

    The caretaker tells a story in which a man dies. What happened to him is not described or illustrated, but he is buried the next day and his remains are referred to as “grisly” (p. 60). His dog waits next to the grave “until nothing remain[s]” (p. 64). At the end of the story the old man reveals that his name is Joe—the same name appears on the headstone they were sitting on, and it’s the anniversary of that person’s death (p. 76). The final image includes a dog peeking out from behind a headstone (p. 81).