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Reviewed by Ava Preece
Opening sentence
A dark lake with darker secrets.
Cousins Amy, Danny and Jack are staying at their Grandpa’s bach in Tumoana with Amy and Danny’s dad when a strange coffin-like crate is delivered, addressed to their bach, Bide-a-wee.

Dad was in a hurry to get to work, he helped the delivery man carry the heavy crate inside, signed the delivery form, told the kids not to open the crate and rushed into his car. The crate sat brusquely, giving the quaint living room of Bide-a-wee a strange presence. Fastened with wingnuts and oddly heavy, the kids’ curiosity grew. A guessing game began, each kid with completely different guesses. Amy’s, a garden sculpture; Jack’s, a jet ski; and Danny’s, a dead body. But slowly, their curiosity grew too strong, and, even with the warning of ‘crazies’, the lid was taken off. The surprise they got was immense, but lying inside the box was something quite eerie.

The Crate is written by James Norcliffe, who has won many awards for his writing.

The Crate is an exceptionally well written book, but it just wasn’t for me. I felt like I was dragged along the story, rather than willingly following. Although the story had its good points, I felt kind of unexcited, even during the twists and turns at the end. Ghost stories might just not be my favourite genre.

Books are like food, some people like certain types and others don’t. But with food, sometimes your taste buds might change, meaning you start to like foods you didn’t before. It’s the same with books. I like to think of it that way, rather than being negative about it and immediately thinking, “No, I don’t like this book/genre, it’s terrible!” Instead, I consider everything about the book and think, “I might love this book/genre later on.” This book had me going down a similar thought path, meaning I actually had to apply this knowledge and test it. And it was totally worth it! Having that knowledge is going to really help me with re-reading it so I can focus on the best bits.

I definitely had a favourite character, the quirky girl named Skip. Her peculiar upbringing with her mother, Jessie, the astrologer, versus her grandfather, Jack, the astronomer. Her background goes perfectly with her big attitude, and it’s her attitude that makes her my favourite. The mix of kindness, spirit, sarcasm, courage and curiosity is an awesome match. She’s epic!

It was a very good book, with well devised characters and an interesting story. I reckon this book is written for 10 to 12 year olds, and people who enjoy reading paranormal stories or small town based books, with places like Tuamoana. I myself enjoyed that aspect as I have always lived in small towns, so it has a familiar, homely feel. Even though some of the aspects of the book didn’t pique my interest, I reckon others will find this book interesting and thrilling with its big twists and others may find it much more enthralling than I did. Norcliffe is an incredible Kiwi author that must I recommend for the ghost story readers out there.

- Ava is 12 and lives in the Chatham Islands.
Publisher: Quentin Wilson Publishing
ISBN: 9780995143746
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2022
Ages: 10-12
Themes: Paranormal, small town