Review: Jodie written by Hilary McKay and illustrated by Keith Robinson

Published by Barrington Stoke on 18th May 2023

Jodie is a spine-tinglingly haunting and eerie ghost story that kept me enthralled throughout.  Utterly compelling, and so beautifully written.

Jodie is on a residential trip to a field centre with others from her school, but she does not want to be there.  She has been through a lot, and is a loner at school, so spending time with others on the residential is the last thing she wants.  Against the rules, she goes out alone to find a little dog who has been constantly barking and finds herself trapped in an old pickup truck which has been stuck in the cold, thick mud of the saltmarsh – and the tide is coming in!  Will anyone hear her screams?

The story then goes back in time to Jodie’s arrival at the field centre and shares how she has found herself in her current situation.  What has led to her running from the centre?  Can she find a way to save herself, and free both herself and a trapped soul?

This is not only a hauntingly poignant ghost story, but also the story of a young girl struggling to find her voice again after so much difficult change in her life including her brother being sent to prison, losing her home, and having to move to a place where she does not know anyone.  She feels like she doesn’t belong and seeks places where she can be on her own, away from having to interact with others.  Can she find her voice – and friendship- with the girls she has to share a room with?  I really liked the friendships between the other girls which felt natural and real, and was really hoping that Josie would open herself to the possibility of finding friendship with them.

The structure of this story, with its use of different timelines, really drew me in, and I loved the slow reveal of clues, the building of tension and the revelations which really added to the haunting atmosphere. 

The illustrations are absolutely stunning, and complement the haunting, isolated atmosphere of this novella perfectly.  The images of Josie are heart-breaking and really show her loneliness and pain, her feeling of being apart from others.  This contrasts with the joy and closeness shown in the illustrations of the friends she is sharing a room with.  And the final illustration – just perfect!

Jodie is a masterfully written ghost story that is both poignant and hopeful, a story of finding your voice … a powerful and stunning read for 9+.

Thank you to Barrington Stoke and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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