Title: Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist
Author: David Almond
Illstrator: Dave McKean
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Children’s fiction, Fantasy – supernatural
Book format: Hardback
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  Joe Quinn tells everyone about the poltergeist in his house, but no one believes him.  No one, that is, except Davie.
He’s felt the inexplicable  presence in the rooms and seen random objects fly through the air.  And there’s something else…a memory of Davie’s beloved sister, and a feeling deep down that it might just be possible for ghosts to exist.
A haunting story of the power of hope.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review: I really don’t know what to say about this book. It has some brilliant illustrations and an interesting story, if slightly different, but I’m not sure that this will be enjoyed by children, maybe those a little older instead. ‘Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist’ is a hardback book that’s around A5ish in size and is filled with glossy and thick pages of colourful images and text. The hardcover features a dust jacket which you can remove to show a different image underneath.

This book, although it features a short story, it’s very much a graphic novel, or graphic short story, with the way it is presented. Geordie and Davie (the narrator of the story) are watching some girls play tennis when Joe Quinn walks up to them and tells them that there’s a poltergeist in his home. He invites them to come and see it for themselves. The two boys do just that, and when they get to Joe’s house there’s bread and plates flying through the air. Although Geordie’s sceptical, Davie begins to believe that the poltergeist is real, and he wonders if it could be linked his dead sister.

Joe Quinn's Poltergeist book inside cover image
©The Strawberry Post – A look under the dust jacket!

The story is a strange one and I’m not sure it would be enjoyed by all children, as some reviewers have suggested. Joe Quinn is known to be a liar and wasn’t exactly kind to Davie in the past so when the boys first visit Joe’s house, Davie’s unsure what to think. But something makes him return to Joe’s house more than once, and he’s keen to figure out whether the poltergeist is real.

I was keen to read this story, given the creepy cover image and the fact that I love anything spooky or supernatural. But as I continued to read, it became clear to me that it’s less about the poltergeist in Joe’s house and more about the relationship between the boys and what’s going on in the minds of both Davie and Joe. I won’t give away what happens in the story but I can say that the ending is a strange one which, while it does conclude Davie’s story and the possibility of what the poltergeist really was, it doesn’t really feel like a completely finished ending. It felt like there could be more added to the ending to give it a better feel.

Joe Quinn's Poltergeist book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

 

The problem I have with this book is that I really was hoping for a spooky story and what I got was more of a gritty drama. Joe has problems with his father who is in prison and it makes him lash out at Davie. At the same time, part of the story sees Davie talking to a priest, who not only smokes and drinks but he also states some questionable things about the existence of God. While this part of the story does make you think about things and would make for good discussion, I’m not sure all parents would be happy for their kids to read this sort of tale.

There is an introduction at the beginning of the book and it reveals that many parts of this story are clearly things that come from the authors own past, such as losing his sister at a young age. Some of the dialogue is written in a northern regional accent which did still feel a bit weird for me, coming from the south, but it isn’t difficult to read. While this book is marketed for ages 9+, I think this would be better suited to ones that are older, maybe teens or those just under. Although there’s nothing really scary in this story, the general feel of it, the questioning of God and the dark tone (including characters stating ‘bliddy’ – which sounds like a mild form of bloody, and the one use of the term ‘shagged’ are things that make me wonder whether this book should be aimed at kids or those older. I know not everyone will agree, but for me at the age of 9, I would have been too sensitive for this sort of story and would not have understood it until I was older.

Joe Quinn's Poltergeist book page image two
©The Strawberry Post

 

The images in the book are brilliant and do give an atmosphere to this story. There’s a mixture of sketches, painting and photographs all mixed together on various different pages and different parts of the story give it a unique feel. All of the images are a bit creepy, even the way that some characters are depicted looks a bit creepy, and although there are some beautiful images of birds and green areas, there are also a lot of darker ones which just give this book a wonderful, if slightly disconcerting, atmosphere.

I’m not a fan of this book, primarily as it’s just not what I was expecting when I read the blurb. But having read through it twice I do think it’s a decent story to read and discuss some very serious issues though. The ending is still one that will either be enjoyed or not given its open nature. Overall I just didn’t enjoy this that much and it’s a shame as the cover is brilliant and the introduction made me believe I was going to get a brilliant and very spooky tale.


Do you like this book?  Do you like spooky stories in general or do you prefer more contemporary?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂