Stew Knight delivers age-appropriate scares and suspense in his entertaining Halloween-themed middle-grade book, Finn & Botts: Curse of the Cornfield Ghost.
Finn and Botts, like their friends, classmates, and parents, are anthropomorphic pigs. It’s Halloween, and with the memory of trick-or-treat bags stolen by a mysterious black-caped figure last year, the kids are on their guard. When treat bags go missing again, Finn and Botts, along with their friends Tess and Sylvia, develop a plan to plant dog biscuits in the trick-or-treat bags of neighborhood kids, so that Sylvia’s dog, Seeker, can track the thief later.
They follow some false leads, until a dare causes Finn to confront and conquer his long-held fears about entering the nearby haunted cornfield. As a result, Finn and Botts catch the Halloween thief, and also meet the “ghost” that inhabits the cornfield.
Knight’s writing follows the model of other middle-grade books, with clear, simple sentences and cliffhangers that end each of the novel’s 13 chapters. The frights are gentle but attention-grabbing, the twists and turns compelling but not overly complex—a perfect step up for young readers looking for a bit more adventure and excitement.
It’s a quick, plot-driven story, with glimpses into Finn’s thoughts along the way, particularly to show his fear of the cornfield ghost. Character development is a bit lacking at times, especially regarding Botts, who often seems more like a sidekick than an equal. Black-and-white illustrations—one per chapter—are a welcome addition, providing an assist to young imaginations and entertaining in their own right.
As the first in Knight’s new Finn & Botts series, Curse of the Cornfield Ghost is a fun, exciting introduction to the title characters. Readers will eagerly follow them to the next installments.