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New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classicAfter suffering a tragic loss eleven year old Ollie only finds solace in books So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water Ollie doesn't think she just acts stealing the book and running away As she begins to read the slender volume Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth the two brothers who both loved her and a peculiar deal made with the smiling man a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish but only for the ultimate price Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow a local farm with a haunting history all its own There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn't have too long to think about the answer to that On the way home the school bus breaks down sending their teacher back to the farm for help But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care Best get moving At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you Nightfall is indeed fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch a keepsake reminder of better times begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message RUN Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver's warning As the trio head out into the woods bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends Avoid large places Keep to small And with that a deliciously creepy and hair raising adventure begins


10 thoughts on “Small Spaces

  1. says:

    I would read Katherine Arden's shopping list if she published it


  2. says:

    ARC given to me by a confirmed angel Lilly at Lair of Books which I will cherish and love forever “You might get to know characters in books Ollie thought but getting to know a human was an entirely different thing” Small Spaces is Katherine Arden’s debut middle grade novel and I loved it so very much friends Many of you know that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books of all time and even though these stories are nothing like one another the beautiful writing amazing characters and important themes shine through I went into this expecting a fun and spooky read which it was but what I also got was such a beautiful love letter to grief depression and trying to live in a world that has taken away someone who you feel you cannot live without In a small town in Vermont our main character is riding her bike home from school one fall afternoon when she notices a woman attempting to throw an old book in the water Ollie being the book lover that she is feels obliged to stop and see what’s going on ➽ Olivia Adler But she mostly goes by Ollie A twelve year old sixth grader who loves to read and is trying to live her life while grieving a terrible loss And the only way she truly knows how to cope is the escapism of books Also there is a brief mention of her mom having brown skin but I am not 100% sure of Ollie’s race ➽ Coco Zintner The tiniest child in Ollie’s class She has a somewhat famous mother and has recently moved to the school But her innocence and eccentricities constantly make her a target for bullying ➽ Brian Battersby Jamaican and your typical middle school jock who Ollie has known her entire life And Ollie learns very uickly that you should not stereotype people because they might surprise you And their paths truly cross unexpectedly once Olivia begins to read the book that was almost abandoned She learns of a farm and a girl and two brothers and a missing persons case that was never solved And now Ollie and her friends are going on a field trip to a farm that is very reminiscent of the story she has been reading about And yes friends this is a spooky book I mean it’s nothing too scary or too much but Katherine Arden for sure paints an eerie atmosphere and some extremely creepy monster like characters And I truly think this will make the perfect Halloween read this year for so many ages but this book was also so much than that This is a book about healing and friendship and learning to let go while simultaneously never letting go This book is about escapism through books and how books carry some of the most powerful healing magic imaginable And this is a book about healing at your own pace and in your own time “Maybe she kept thinking when she came back from one of those other worlds when she woke up from book dreaming she would come back to a world where wasn’t dead” Ollie is really dealing with some very serious depression and grief throughout this book Like how we give up things that make us happy just because those things remind you of the person who made you happiest How sometimes the world feels too heavy too loud too empty all because it’s missing someone who was your entire world Yet this is also a love letter to how the ones we lose will never truly be lost; they will always remain with us Always Overall I loved this book than words I wasn’t expecting it to make me feel everything that it did and when I closed the book it truly felt like a cathartic experience I recommend this book to any and every person but especially during the autumnal season I read this in a single sitting I never once wanted to put it down and I fell so deeply in love with it Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch The uotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publicationContent and trigger warnings for minor bullying loss of a loved one grief depiction and depression depiction


  3. says:

    If you see me at your local farm orchard pumpkin patch county fair or other vaguely agricultural gathering place looking scared out of my pants mind your business I’m in recoveryThis book is SCARYI see your illogical fear of clowns and I’ll do you one better scarecrowsI mean “scare” is in the name So it automatically makes senseBy far the scariest part of this was between the beginning and the climax when scary things have started to happen but there are no answers Horror movies for example are not scary because usually there is a clearly identifiable figure killing coeds and like cheerleaders in uniform and what have you and clearly identifiable figures are hard to be afraid of Life is FILLED with clearly identifiable figures That’s life’s whole thingLife is NOT filled with stabby scarecrows and creepy farms and mysterious journals and something called the Smiling Man At least my life isn’t And I hope yours aren’t eitherThis book is at its scariest when all of these things are mentioned but we haven’t really seen any of them yet we just feel them there at the outskirts of the story about to creep inOnce they’re there it gets a lot less scary And therefore boringBut overall this was pretty goodBottom line YES I AM AN ADULT WHO GOT FRIGHTENED BY A CHILDREN’S BOOK Stop bullying me me last night i can handle reading this before bed it's a children's book after all i'm an adultme 15 minutes later have to cover my ears with a pillow because I heard a noise and I think the scarecrows are coming for mereview to come when i've recovered 4 stars horror movies are not scary a spooky children's book about ghost stories and disappearing people and some creature called the Smiling Man? now that's scary


  4. says:

    What fun Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾


  5. says:

    Unfortunately this one didn’t really do much for me it was fine but it definitely didn’t live up to the hopes I had for it Womp


  6. says:

    In fourth grade I sold my soul to the Scholastic Book Club’s Apple paperbacks There was only one thing in the entire world I ever wanted to read at that point Only one thing that could make my little heart go pitter pat and that was the comforting presence of ghost stories This was long before Bob Stine decided to slap an “RL” in front of his last name and stake a claim in the world of G rated horror fare But it was also long after John Bellairs made it his business to truck in the middle grade supernatural The Apple paperbacks had titles like Ghost Cat and Wait Till Helen Comes and The Dollhouse Murders They were written by folks like Betty Ren Wright and Willo Davis Roberts and Mary Down Hahn and I loved them dearly I wanted to be scared but in the safest way imaginable I remember distinctly picking up some rando Alfred Hitchcock story collection for kids and reading the warning that it would be the scariest thing I ever encountered only to return it to the library without going any further Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark worked for me if only because the stories themselves were just lame urban legends while the art by Stephen Gammell was synthesized purified nightmare fuel perfect for sleepovers All this is to say that I like to think I know my way around a scary book for the 9 12 year old set It’s been a long time since I’ve found something that really made me nostalgic for those days of yore Then I read a book that’s going to be absolutely perfect for those kids that loved Stranger Things and want something in the children’s room of the library that feels like that Are you afraid of scarecrows? No? Well bad news bucko You’re about to beWe all deal with trauma in different ways When you lose someone close to you you find a way of dealing with the pain For Ollie books have always been her escape After her mom’s death Ollie has consistently lost herself in novels of every stripe shutting out the world around her Maybe that’s why she did it Maybe that’s why she stole that woman’s book It wasn’t anything she intended to do of course but one day after school Ollie encountered an odd woman on the cusp of chucking an old book into the river Possessed by a sense of urgency Ollie gets the book away from the woman but not before she is handed a bit of advice Avoid large spaces Stick to small Delving into the book later that night Ollie discovers it to be the tale of a family wrenched apart by someone only known as “The Smiling Man” and the promises he makes When Ollie is dragged onto a school trip to a local farm she doesn’t connect the story with the world around her Not until she starts noticing the scarecrows Not until the school bus breaks down in the mist And not until the scarecrows start noticing her tooAllow me to pause for a moment and offer an ode to a grand first page A truly good first page of a children’s novel is a thing of beauty It’s not that anything has to happen necessarily It's just that if the author is talented enough then they will actually be able to convey in roughly half a page right from the start whether or not they’re the kind of writer you want to dedicate several hours of your life to Now consider the first page of Small Spaces There are ten sentences there and within those ten there are already three or four that I adore The first reads “Olivia Adler sat nearest the big window in Mr Easton’s math class trying catlike to fit her entire body into a patch of light and wishing she were on the other side of the glass You don’t waste October sunshine” Aside from being a pretty effective method of conveying a lot of information about a character without being too obvious about it it’s also an interesting case of foreshadowing Later in the novel there will be darker moments of craving the October sunshine and of staring through window panes both wanting and not wanting to be on the other side The other sentences read “Mike Campbell got the shivers from sueaking blackboards and for some reason from people licking paper napkins The sixth grade licked napkins around him as much as possible” No real foreshadowing in that one and Mike’s not even that important a character I just love how it’s writtenThat keen authorial bent with a pen doesn’t just stop on that first page either Arden's descriptions can often be delicious “Her eyes looked – stretched – the way a dog looks hiding under the bed during a thunderstorm” Or “The parking lot was full of puddles and the bus suatted in the middle of it like a prehistoric swamp monster” Extra points are also allotted for including in the book uotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that aren’t the usual suspects Kids aren’t going to walk away from this book talking it up and lending it to their friends because of the similes or the Lewis Carroll shout outs though They’re going to hand it around because Arden has mastered the art of rising tension that delivers A good horror novel for kids shouldn’t just feel increasingly creepy There has to be something truly terrible at its core that is going to get you and do something unspeakable to you If the threat isn’t real the tension isn’t going to work But don’t worry In this book the threat is real the bad guy is terrifying and the tension well let’s just say you could cut it with a knife hanging off of a smiling scarecrow’s armNow you can’t just write a book about a girl going on a creepy school trip It’s a good thing to mention in the elevator pitch for the book but there’s gotta be a little meat on the bones so to speak Ollie’s mother is dead so right there that’s good Dead moms are infinitely good fodder for a storytelling particularly if the kid isn’t handling it particularly well If you sit down and consider how odd it is that a remarkably traumatic night is what it takes to help the main character work through her grief it is a little odd But hey That’s what storytelling is all about Each of the three main kid characters is a fully rendered human being too Ollie is Arden is adept at making sure that tragedy does not euate personality and so too are Coco and Brian Coco in particular is a character I’ve never encountered in a children’s book before Sweet small probably rich and a perpetual victim There’s a lovely moment late in the book when Ollie zeroes in on what makes Coco tick “Coco didn’t cry because she was weak Coco cried because she felt things Ollie never cried because she didn’t feel things Not any Not really She tried not to feel things” Look at the beautiful repetition of those same words over and over repeated in different ways in those sentences It’s still remarkable to me after all these years that you can take so few words in a children’s book rearrange them slightly and say something profound about a character’s very make upThe very first moment Ollie is told the titular advice to “Avoid large places at night” and “Keep to small” a memory twitched at the back of my brain I’d heard that advice before Where? Ah yes “The Boy Who Drew Cats” It’s a Japanese folktale easily found in amongst other things Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy In that story when a boy leaves the safety of a monastery he is given the advice “Avoid large places stick to small” It’s not a particularly well known story here in the States and I thought it a clever adaptation to this particular book Arden makes no mention of the tale in her Acknowledgments so I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence or not Let’s just say it’s good advice regardless of where it comes fromLiving as we do in a post Goosebumps world it’s still funny to me that people haven’t taken advantage of children’s endless appetites for horror You’ll occasionally get a television show like Are You Afraid of the Dark? but it’s exceedingly rare Fortunately middle grade novels never stopped producing creepy fare Mary Downing Hahn is still alive kicking and churning out deathly fare Mr RL Stine still rules the roost And with new authors like Katherine Arden picking up the mantle picking up heck – improving the mantle I’m confident these books aren’t going anywhere At one point in this book Seth the farm hand says to Ollie “Wherever you go in this big gorgeous hideous world there is a ghost story waiting for you” You can take that as a threat if you like but I take it as a promiseFor ages 10 12


  7. says:

    Small Spaces is a completely charming totally creepy Middle Grade story that I was truly impressed withA great introduction to the Horror genre for younger readers I also feel it is an excellent book to read while we transition into the Spooky season This entire book is steeped in chilly Fall vibesAfter Ollie's Mom dies in a tragic accident she copes by immersing herself within the pages of her booksReturning home from school one day she stumbles upon a distraught woman talking nonsense and preparing to throw a book into a riverOllie reacts strongly Who would want to throw a perfectly harmless book into a river? She snatches the book away from the woman hops on her bike and escapes to homeThat night as she starts to read the rescued volume she discovers a wonderfully creepy story inside Told in epistolary format one of my personal favorites the narrative seems very realLuckily as the Reader we get to follow along with Ollie as she discovers the story of a girl named Beth and the two brothers who loved and fought for her I always enjoy a book within a book trope so this element was a nice surpriseStaying up late reading is not new to Ollie so she's barely fazed when it is time to head to school the next day Her class actually has a field trip to a local farm scheduledAs field trips go it is nothing out of the ordinary but Ollie does start to notice some strange occurrences over the course of the day Maybe the content of the book is contributing but she's a little jumpyOn the way home that evening the bus breaks down and their teacher sets off to get helpThat's when things start getting REALLY strange Ollie's digital wristwatch her Mom's old watch starts a countdown on its own and flashes one word RUNShe decides to listen to her gut and the wristwatch and does just that along with two new friends in towFrom there we follow Ollie Coco and Brian as they try to survive the night evading evil scarecrows a creepy corn maze and other dangers along the way They must get help not just for themselves but also the rest of their classmates they abandoned on the busAs mentioned above I think this is a great introduction to the Horror genre either for younger readers or readers of any age who are trying to feel out what they can handleThere's definitely some genuinely scary elements in this Personally I am horrified by corn mazes and scarecrows aren't much betterI loved Ollie as a main character Her bookishness and anxieties were beautifully executed and I found her highly likable and relatableI definitely plan to continue on with this series and am looking forward to getting to Dead Voices soon


  8. says:

    Review first posted on Fantasy Literature Avoid large places at night Keep to small It’s an ambiguous but ominous warning that Ollie Adler gets from two different people and an old book But why?Olivia Ollie age 11 is having a tough time dealing with a recent personal tragedy and getting sympathetic looks from her father and teacher only makes it worse She’s withdrawn from activities like the softball team and chess club that she once loved Ollie still finds comfort in books though so when she comes across a distraught woman about to toss an old book into a creek she snatches the book and runs away with it but not before the woman gives her some unasked for advice about keeping to small spaces at nightThe worn out book titled Small Spaces turns out to be a personal history written by Beth Webster in the late 1800s Her tale starts out charming as Beth writes about the two brothers who both wanted to marry her But then the story turns ominous as conflict erupts between the brothers one disappears and the other makes a deal with a mysterious smiling manWhen Ollie goes on a school field trip to a nearby Vermont farm the next day she’s a little alarmed to find that the history of Misty Valley farm is suspiciously similar to Beth Webster’s story in the stolen book Creepy looking scarecrows are everywhere she looks on the farm with trowels or rakes for hands Then the school bus breaks down in the fog going home their teacher disappears in the mists and their strange bus driver ominously warns Ollie to get moving and to keep to small spaces at night Small Spaces is Katherine Arden’s follow up to her medieval Russian fantasy series the WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY I never would have guessed that the author of The Bear and the Nightingale wrote this creepy middle grade horror novel It’s written in a completely different style and is clearly for a younger set of readers Small Spaces doesn’t compare to the WINTERNIGHT TRILOGY in depth or complexity but it’s not meant to do so and it has its own brand of spine tingling appealThe three tweens who are the main characters Ollie and her classmates Brian and Coco are realistically drawn and relatable but unusual enough to be memorable Coco is the cute tiny new girl in town who’s teased to tears by the boys; Brian is a black athlete from Jamaica who sticks out in small town Vermont but he’s not only found a good set of friends but is willing to extend his concern to others outside of his circle Each of them has her or his human flaws but also shows some surprising strengths“How is she the clumsiest person ever on the ground yet a suirrel when she’s climbing?” muttered OllieBrian grinned “You’re kind of grumpy most of the time but when things get bad you’re the bravest People can surprise you Ollie pop”Ollie and her two classmates learn how important it is to help and trust each other Through their terrorizing experiences Ollie also finds strength to deal with her personal loss of a loved one Unlike too many YA and children’s novels Ollie’s parents are a concerned and loving presence in her life helping her in whatever ways they can Her relationship with them is heart warming Small Spaces is a page turning supernatural thriller that is superficially like an RL Stine GOOSEBUMPS novel but there’s much substance to this tale and better writing Hand a copy of this book to a tween who likes scary stories or enjoy the thrills and chills yourself


  9. says:

    Many thanks to the GP Putnam's Sons for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review When the mist rises and the Smiling Man comes walking you must avoid large places at night Keep to small Have you ever heard of the Scoville Scale? It is the scale that measures the spicy ness of a food Mainly peppers With the lowest pepper the Bell Pepper all the way to the hottest the Carolina Reaper 💀 the Scoville Scale has a variety of hotness I feel like this reflects on horror books as well Just like spicy food different book are or less potent And just like spicy food it affects people differently Some can read a Stephen King book and be fine just like some can eat a jalapeño and be fine I personally have a high horror tolerance Funny because I cannot stand spicy food so not a ton of books give me a good chill This one did which was surprising considering its middle grade Why? I'll tell youFirstly the characters I know it seems like I say this about every book but I loved all the characters again especially Ollie 💓♣ Ollie God I loved Ollie She was without a doubt My favorite character She reminded me of myself so much I felt as though as though I was looking into a mirror She loves books which obviously won me over instantly She very headstrong and impulsive but in the best possible way At the same time she is very down to earth and uiet I enjoyed seeing her rebellious side but also when she was calm shy and uick thinking♣ Brian Hmmmmmm well I didn't hate him He definitely added to the story He was the absolute opposite of Ollie and thus me Athletic handsome charismatic popular Words I would never use to describe myself He was also not very chivalrous He didn't directly bully but when he witnessed it happening he did nothing to stop it He also wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree I'm just glad he didn't try to persue Ollie in a relationship because that would have made me cra cra Well than I already am 😏♣ Coco She was a bit like Brian except whiny and dare I say it? stupider I honestly couldn't decide if she was supposed to be the comic relief or an antagonist I felt the same way for Brian ♣ Ollie's Dad Even though he wasn't technically a main character I still want to talk about Ollie's dad who was never given a name As far as I can remember that is He's one of those characters that you simultaneously pity and hate at the same time He would lash out but was still a very loving dad I think the main reason I liked him is because he felt so human So real and raw He's grieving the loss of his wife and trying to take care of his daughter at the same time I rooted him and I hope we see of him in book two♣ Smiling Man If Pennywise and Legend had a baby and then dipped in Pure Evil® the Smiling Man would be that Not only is he creepy he is smart and conniving I don't want to spoil anything but I just think he was such a perfect villain I'd love to read his preuel story if it's ever written♣ Scarecrows I mean this would be like calling the Walkers from The Walking Dead characters But still The attention to detail for these creatures was stunning and terrifying That combined with the seriously creepy cover art made these things one of the creepiest made up creatures I've ever heard of Also when one of them spoke Creepiest scene of the whole bookThis book seems to dip into a variety of genres From fantasy to Mystery to sci fi I have seen books try and fail to pull this off It ain't easy to do well So props to Katherine Arden for doing that well 🙌🙌 This read like a mystery because of it's clues and sleuthing but also like a fantasy because of the zombie scarecrows and evil smiling man I also loved that it felt like a zombie apocalypse book I love zombie apocalypses I mean I'd never want to experience one but I love reading about them but it is so hard to find a good zombie apocalypse book Even though this wasn't a zombie apocalypse book per se it still is one of the best ones I have ever read I also really loved the farm setting That just added to the already superb creepinessSomething I except from most books especially middle grade ones is a strong moral theme I loved the team work self sacrifice and kindness shown by almost all of the characters Good job book 👍I am a knowledge addict When I find a subject especially a science fiction or fantasy one I need to know everything While I got enough lore to just barely satisfy me I still was left wanting to know about how the world works I want to know the ins and outs of everything from The Smiling Man to the Scarecrows to the Small Spaces book Book two you had better come throughThe ending felt a bit too perfect a bit too easy Somehow I have a feeling this is not the past we'll of the Smiling Man45 StarsThat Was Astoundingly Surprisingly amazing| Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram


  10. says:

    When the mist rises and the smiling man comes walking you must avoid large places at nightKeep to smallSmall Spaces was my first Katherine Arden book and I loved it At first I was skeptical because this is her middle grade debut novel but once I started to read all my reservations about the book disappeared uoting C S Lewis “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest Fortunately Small Spaces proves to be that amazing children's story that can be enjoyed by adults and children alikeEleven year old Ollie Adler turns to the comfort of books after suffering a tragic loss She becomes distant and tries to keep to herself as much as she can But when she comes across a woman who is planning to throw a book into the river Ollie snatches it and runs The book is called Small Spaces and it's in the form of a letter written by a mother to her daughter about the sinister events that took place at a farm called Smoke Hollow Ollie assumes that the story is fiction but when her school takes a trip to Misty Valley farm she can't help but notice the similarities between the two As she continues to ponder upon it on her way back from the visit the school bus breaks down and is suddenly shrouded by mist It doesn't help that the bus driver turns around and says Well best get moving At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you Unsettled Ollie decides to pay heed to the bus driver's advice and takes off but not before she is joined by two other classmates—Coco Zintner and Brian Battersby Together they witness the most horrifying events and to save themselves they do what the book tells them to—they keep to small spaces In the beginning this book reminded me of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane which I didn't enjoy half as much as I enjoyed this one The writing is wonderful and the characters are precious Ollie's dad loves to cook bake and knit—a character that subtly shatters stereotypes The kids are all so different from one another but when the times get tough they have each other's back This book was creepy and fascinating and I can't wait to read Arden's other works2 Dead Voices 4 stars