Black Sand Beach: Are You Afraid of the Light? by Richard Fairgray

If you like your graphic novels a little on the creepy or weird side then you need to grab the first book in Richard Fairgray’s Black Sand Beach series, Are You Afraid of the Light?

Dash and his family are off to their holiday house at Black Sand Beach, along with Dash’s friend Lily. Dash tries to explain to Lily that it’s not like any other holiday destination – ‘there’s no ice-cream stand or stores, there’s just giant mosquitoes, scary woods, weird animals and a shaky old house that my dad built himself.’ You think Dash is exaggerating, but then you turn the page to see giant mosquitoes flying past the car. When they get to the house they’re greeted by Dash’s Aunt Lynne riding what looks like a green ram, and things just get weirder from there. Dash’s cousin Andy tries to capture bees to make him fly, Uncle Trevor looks grey and creepy, the sand on the beach is magnetic, and the abandoned lighthouse is suddenly shining its light. As Dash, Lily and Andy investigate the mysterious lighthouse they are attacked by ghosts and there are signs that something really strange is going on at Black Sand Beach. Then Dash’s family get given a heap of purple potatoes from the neighbours, which everyone but Lily eats, and things get really bizarre. Scary, green creatures, with mouths in their stomachs appear but only Lily can see their natural form. It’s up to Lily to save Dash and his family.

Are You Afraid of the Light? is one of the weirdest, creepiest graphic novels for kids that I’ve read but it left me intrigued. When I finished the book I felt like I was waking from a bad dream, but one that I wanted to go back to. I was unsettled but I want to know more about what is going on at Black Sand Beach. There are plenty of weird things going on that Richard Fairgray will hopefully elaborate on in future books. I want to know why Dash doesn’t remember coming to Black Sand Beach last summer. Who or what is the ghostly presence calling out to Dash? Why is Uncle Trevor so creepy? Most of the adults are pretty weird actually, like Dash’s mum, who hardly says anything and spends most of the time looking bored.

Richard Fairgray’s illustrations certainly match the tone of the story, with lots of dark green and purple being used to give it a creepy vibe. I like the way that the eerie light from the lighthouse shines on the characters too. My favourite aspect of the illustrations are the pages that mark the next part of the story, where Richard has used a negative exposure kind of effect.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next part of the story, which is due this year. Hopefully we’ll get some answers to some of the weirdness in Black Sand Beach. This is definitely a graphic novel for those kids who like a bit of creepy or weird in their stories. I’m sure this will be gobbled up by the older kids at my primary school.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar is an exciting author.  He’s not prolific but when he does publish a book it’s always something to shout about.  My first Louis Sachar book (and probably his most popular) was Holes, the story of Stanley Yelnats and Camp Green Lake.  It totally grabbed me and is still one of my favourite books.  Louis’ last book, The Cardturner, was a fascinating book about bridge and family secrets.  It’s been 5 years since his last book, so I was very excited to hear about Louis Sachar’s new book, Fuzzy Mud.  After reading his previous books and having high expectations I wasn’t disappointed.

Tamaya is on a scholarship to the prestigious Woodridge Academy and every day she and seventh-grader Marshall walk to school together. They never go through the woods. And when they arrive at school they stop talking to each other – because Marshall can’t be seen to be friends with a little kid like Tamaya. Especially not with Chad around. Chad-the-bully, who makes Marshall’s life utterly miserable. But today, hoping to avoid Chad, Marshall and Tamaya decide to go through the woods … And what is waiting there for them is strange, sinister and entirely unexpected. The next day, Chad doesn’t turn up at school – no one knows where he is, not even his family. And Tamaya’s arm is covered in a horribly, burning, itchy wound. As two unlikely heroes set out to rescue their bully, the town is about to be turned upside down by the mysterious Fuzzy Mud.

 

Fuzzy Mud is a weird, thrilling, suspenseful story about friendship, bullies and an experiment gone wrong.  Louis Sachar keeps you on the edge of your seat as the suspense builds right to the end.  It’s slightly creepy and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to end.   Like each of Louis’ books there are several strands to the story.  What at first seems like just a school story about fitting in and bullies making life hell, soon becomes a quite different story with far worse problems.  The story of Tamaya and Marshall is interspersed by extracts from an inquiry into a place called SunRay Farm, a research facility not far from their school, that was creating an organism that would be used to make a bio-fuel to help save the planet.  These extracts show you that their experiments didn’t quite go as planned.  When Tamaya discovers the fuzzy mud in the forest when she is helping Marshall escape the school bully, the consequences are disastrous.  Could an organism that was designed to help people actually harm or even kill people instead?

The book has got one of the coolest covers I’ve seen recently and it is sure to grab the attention of kids.  The design of the book is very clever too.  I wasn’t quite sure what all the dots at the top of the chapter headings were to start off with but this became clear as I kept reading.  I think it’s kind of quirky and a nice touch.

Fuzzy Mud would be a great read-aloud for kids aged 10 and up.  Not only is it a thrilling story that will keep kids entertained, but it’s also thought-provoking.  What would you do if you found a weird substance in the forest? How would you react if the kid who was bullying you suddenly disappeared?

If you love Louis Sachar or just want a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, grab a copy of Fuzzy Mud now.