Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson…

Moontrug has LOVED every single Eva Ibbotson book she has ever read (Journey to the River Sea being a particular highlight earlier this year) and so when she learnt that Eva Ibbotson’s son, Toby, was writing children’s books, she did a massive star-jump and pleaded with her agent, Hannah Sheppard, to get her a signed copy at the Waterstones Piccadilly event a few weeks ago.


At top-secret Mountwood School for Ghosts the magical staff instruct their students in the highest levels of haunting. Although the Stinking Druid, the Legless Warrior and Vera the Banshee try very hard to be terrifying, they’re just too riddled with fears of their own to be properly scary. Then two human children arrive seeking help. Daniel and Charlotte have powerful enemies – can a force of paranormal professionals help scare them away? The bunch of misfit phantoms at Mountwood School wants to rise to the challenge, but will they just make things much, much worse?


Ibbotson’s book has a sort of Roald Dahl feel to it – from the first few pages we’re introduced to larger-than-life characters, described with all the wit and flair of a story-telling professional: ‘An ordinary village hag goes out at night to sit on people whom she doesn’t like and stop them breathing, so that they wake in a panic. That’s why some people look hag-ridden when they come down to breakfast. Great Hagges cannot be bothered with stuff like that.’ Small wonder that it’s the Great Hagges who form Mountwood School ‘to put the ghastly back into ghosthood’ and the ghost-cast who enrol there are truly brilliant – they sparkle with originality and style: a banshee whose vocal chords are wasting away, a flirtatious Druid, a Phantom Welder, a broad Scotsman called Angus Crawe, a hugely fat ghost who had been a housemaster at a famous public school and had died of apoplexy while enthusiastically thrashing a small pupil…


And alongside these memorable ghosts, Ibbotson gives us delightful human characters – the gorgeous Charlotte who plays Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, to Daniel’s Hector (because Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and that seemed a bit too much) and the WONDERFUL writer, Lottie Wilder, who relishes the opportunity of being locked up in prison because it’ll give her the solitude, time and quiet to finish her novel. Brilliant stuff. Moontrug couldn’t help thinking there was a bit of Eva Ibbotson herself in the lovely Mrs Wilder (‘and you will sense a small door opening in your mind…and then you will have to decide whether to shut it, or keep it open) and she adored the scene with Daniel, Charlotte and the rolling pin! But Ibbotson doesn’t just give us ghosts and goodies – there are some real rotten eggs in there, too. Lord Ridget, a buffoon who sleeps through important court cases, and the odious Jack Bluffit. Luckily they’re no match for Team Spectre though, as demonstrated by the words the ghosts engrave onto Bluffit’s crane: ‘Up Your Bum.’ Mountwood School for Ghosts is a gorgeously told story for 8+ years, so good in fact, that it’s made it’s way onto Moontrug’s Altocumulus Tower. Can’t wait to see what Toby Ibbotson writes next…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *