________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 13. . . .November 27, 2009.


Shivers and Shakes. (The Salt & Pepper Chronicles, #6).

David A. Poulsen.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books, 2009.
194 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55470-144-5.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Ruth McMahon.





I was wishing I hadn’t let them talk me into going there –– to an underground series of streets and alleys that had been part of the city a few hundred years ago. Before the plague came and killed thousands in Edinburgh, including most of the people who lived in Mary King’s Close. In the centuries that followed, the modern city of Edinburgh was built over the abandoned streets, and now there are tours that take you down to where you can see the buildings and alleys and corners and corridors, long empty, long forgotten……all very eerie.

They’re called Ghost Tours because there are all kinds of ghost stories in a place like Mary King’s Close. Now there’s a surprise. “The Most Haunted Place in Scotland,” the brochure said. It turned out that the brochure was right.

I looked at Pepper. “What is that?”

“Werewolf,” my brother said from behind us.

“He’s kidding, right?”

Pepper shook her head. “Afraid not. They told us there’s a bunch of them in that tunnel, but we thought they were just saying that to keep us from trying to escape. Guess they weren’t.”

Once again, Poulsen has produced a fast paced adventure for the trio of Pepper, Salt and her brother Hal. This time, the setting is the historic, fascinating, hair-raising Mary King’s Close. Poulsen mixes this unique setting with the resident ghosts and for some spice has added the werewolves. Readers must suspend their sense of logic and disbelief in order to follow the young people on their adventure, but Poulsen keeps readers so busy with the action that they will be happy to go along for the ride.

     While down in the tunnels of Mary King’s Close, the trio is charged with the task of finding a vile that contains deadly bacteria presumably left over from the time when Mary King’s Close was bricked off and thousands were left to die of the plague. They determine that the bacteria must be destroyed by intense heat, a determination which sends the three off to a steel factory where they duke it out with the dreaded “man with the wooden teeth” who has his own interest in preserving the bacteria.

     The release of this title is timely given our current preoccupation with pandemics, and it provides an interesting view of this historical site.

     Poulsen fans will not be disappointed with this adventure which, like previous offerings in the series, will entice new readers.


Ruth McMahon is a professional children’s librarian, storyteller, co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Choice Book Award, and the mother of two elementary school aged children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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