Cover Image: The Ghoul of Windydown Vale

The Ghoul of Windydown Vale

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Member Reviews

This HAS to be your next purchase for your middle school student/library/teacher gift!

I am not typically a horror/anything spooky lover for books. WAAYYY too much anxiety and stress for me to willingly handle. BUT, I saw this arc up on NetGalley and immediately recognized the author from our SSYRA lists (Greetings from Witness Protection a few years back and NOW Cleo Porter). I've loved his other books so I knew I had to give it a shot.

Let me tell you, if you need a "First Chapter Friday" hook, I don't know if I've read one better than this! I was totally sold on it from the beginning.

 I was about 50ish% done last night and was about to go to bed. WRONG! I ended up awake to almost midnight to finish the book because there was no way I was sleeping without resolution. It is full of twists and turns. So many great characters. Has a little scare, mystery, love, and all the great things a reader wants to sink (haha) into! I cannot rave enough about this book.
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LOVED LOVED LOVED this dynamic story of a young boy who is so desperate to save his small town that he can’t see who the true villains really are until it’s almost too late. It’s a rollicking ride of family, friendship, and “Disney Channel” level romance sure to entrance any kid.
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This just wasn’t my favorite Jake Burt book. I have really enjoyed the realistic fiction I’ve read and Cleo Porter was very interesting, but it was hard to get into this one and I found the ending to be dissatisfying.
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This was quite a ride! The setting alone becomes a character, with its treacherous mud as a constant hazard to all those who have carved out a living in Windydown Vale.

Copper, our protagonist, has a secret: he’s the ghoul that terrorizes the vale. He is the third generation in his family to take on that role, to keep the people safe from the mud and to bring travelers to the safety of his family’s inn.

Because of the mud, there is only one other person his age in town—Liza. Everyone has assumed that the two will one day marry. Enter Annabelle, whose father has been taken by the Ghoul. Except—Copper knows there is no ghoul.

A larger-than-life figure comes to town and promises to exterminate the Ghoul. For a price of course. It’s not hard for the reader to figure out that he’s a fraud. But who’s helping him? And why do Copper and Annabelle find corpses in the mud outside of town?

The real secret isn’t the Ghoul. It’s why it was created in the first place. And it’s not what you expect.

This is another book where the ending is bittersweet. It’s about trust, and betrayal, and expectations. And sometimes, you just can’t stay quiet anymore.

Possible Objectionable Material:
Violence. Secrets and betrayal. Very mild cursing. A little kissing.

Who Might Like This Book:
Those who like stories about family dynamics. Those who like mysteries. Those who like things a little spooky.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book also reviewed at
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This was an exciting ride from start to finish. Jake Burt has such a way with cliffhanger chapter endings that most of the time I was hiding from life responsibilities just to keep flipping pages. Middle grade mystery lovers will adore the twists and turns. I was rooting so hard for Copper and it made me sad to close the book. Highly recommend for any middle school library.
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My thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group Feiwel & Friends for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.  

I LOVE Jake Burt's writing.  Like 100% will read ANYthing he writes, grocery lists, to-do lists, etc.  So when I saw this was being offered on NetGalley, that request button was hit so fast I almost broke my computer!  SO HAPPY!!!!  (about the book, not the almost broken computer, but I digress)

Then I started to read it.  Same immersive writing style, same well fleshed out characters, but...something  As I got further into the book, I realized what it was.


The adults were not like the adults in his previous books.  They weren't THERE for the kids in the books like they were in Greetings, Cleo, Right Hook, etc.  They were...BAD!  Untrustworthy!!  I felt like I had been sucker punched.  That warm feeling of safety that I always had while reading one of his books was stripped away and I felt sad, lonely and slightly betrayed.  

Now, none of this is a bad thing, he is flexing as an author.  Writing the same thing can make one stale, writers grow, as do readers.  

But this reader wasn't ready to grow yet.  BIG POUT.  

So, if you want feel good, this isn't it.  There is even a crush/love interest for the MCs, which didn't happen in his other books.  Again, author growing/changing up his style, reader shocked and clutching her pearls.  

This review is heartbreaking for me to write, the stars I'm going to give it is heartbreaking for me to give, BUT it is not because this is a bad book.  


His writing is so solid you could build a skyscraper on it.  His books are my Ride or Die.  

It's just this one didn't do it for me.  It's darker than his earlier ones and I wasn't ready for that.  Maybe after I've grown as a reader I will appreciate this book better.  Right now, I need light, fluffy and happy.  

3, it breaks my heart to give this less than five stars, stars.  

PS-Read Greetings from Witness Protection.  Best.  Book.  EVAR!!
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Jake Burt is rapidly becoming an auto-buy author for me and this title is no exception. Scarier than Scooby-Doo, but not too scary to read at night- kids are going to love this action-packed mystery.
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Mysterious travelers, respected town founders, family tragedies, new and old secrets, and a town swallowed by mud all make for a creepy upper middle grade/school read. Did I mention the mud and rain? There's a lot of mud. Definitely a title for fans of scary mysteries.  Recommended!
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With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early copy in return for an honest review.

First of all, what incredible world-building! And the twists, oh my!! I correctly predicted one or two of the twists, but I definitely didn't see coming. These twists and suspense will definitely keep kids turning the page. The book felt like a good mix of fantasy, mystery, adventure, and horror.

Based on my experiences I would probably recommend this more to upper MG readers than early MG readers (3rd/4th graders).
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I enjoyed the story, the characters, the mystery, the twists, and the world-building. But what I loved most about this book was the language and the descriptions. I complimented Jake, but he gave all the credit to Copper, who really knows how to turn a phrase. 

A few examples below. These are from the ARC but I hope they stick around for the final because they're so good:

“she holds the glass with just her fingertips, like a mandolin player fretting a chord.”

“The boughs above us seem to close in and rustle, like old men warming their hands.”

“There’s enough crust in my eyes to salt a soup pot”

Brilliant and lyrical and yet down-to-earth good. The villain(s) were well-rounded, and the core of the mystery is more sophisticated than you typically see in middle grade books (murder!). There were a few more occurrence of "damn" and "hell" than I'd personally prefer for this age group, but I only mention it as a heads up; they certainly don't detract from my 5-star rating.

Read the first chapter and you'll be hooked. And those chapter endings were killing me, in the best way!

All in, a twisty, exciting tale that will keep readers turning the pages. Well done!
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My student's are going to need several copies of this book by Jake Burt, who knows how middle schoolers think.
We love our 'scary stories," and the Ghoul is the perfect character for our suspense needs.

The twists and turns keep us turning the pages!
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This new book by Jake Burt kept me at the edge of my seat.  In a world spooky, almost abandoned town, where the mud swallows up people and objects that fall into it, Copper rescues a mysterious girl, setting off a chain of events.  She claims the Ghoul has taken her father, but he has reason to believe that this isn't what happened.  Now, he is forced to search, and also try to figure out who is helpful and who is hiding something.  Fans of mystery and horror will love this one!
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Mysterious! Suspenseful! Surprising! The Ghoul of Windydown Vale delivers everything you'd want from this type of book and more! The town and its cast of characters are unique and intriguing! The storyline gets readers invested from the get go and keeps engagement high as the plot unfolds and more and more is revealed about what is really going on.
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Kids absolutely eat up scary stories at our library and they are always looking for more. There are twists and turns and a good amount of suspense.
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I started this book thinking it was a basic ghost/monster story.  I was very wrong!  The moral dilemmas and flips and twists kept me flipping pages. It’s very easy to relate this fantasy book to our world, and the story is still spinning in my mind. It definitely makes you think!

The writing and character development were both so incredible.  I especially thought the teenage characters were perfect.  They weren’t overly mature or childish, and the romance was sweet!  The details of the little town and its traditions seem simple at first but come together to mean much more.  Since I wasn’t coming at this book with accurate expectations, it took me awhile to grasp the language, the setting, and the fantasy aspect. Some of my 6th graders will struggle as well and might not want to put in that work.  Stronger readers and older students will enjoy the stretch I think.  I can see this being a First Chapter Friday selection for sure as I introduce them to this story!
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Jake Burt is always reliable for books with relatable characters, engaging plots, and plenty of heart. The Ghoul of Windydown Vale is no different. Students will love this book and find themselves turning page after page to see what happens next. Highly recommended.
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The Ghoul of Windydown Vale was a fun read and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I will say it took me a bit to get into the story because I felt the beginning was a bit slow, but once it started going it was very enjoyable.
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An unusual tale by Jake Burt! Who or what is the ghoul that’s been haunting Windydown Vale? This book is full of surprises and twists til the very end. Seems like a mix of historical fiction, horror, mystery....
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.  The Ghoul of Windydown Vale by Jake Burt was not my favorite of his books, but none the less, it was a good story.  In an effort to keep children and strangers out of the dangerous swamp mud, Copper, the main character of the book, secretly "haunts" the town as a horrifying ghoul.  Then a frightened girl, rides into town, screaming that she and her absent father were attacked by the ghoul and that the ghoul has taken her father.  Copper knows that it wasn't him, so who or what was it?  Thus begins the mystery...  This book had lots of twists and turns which kept me guessing where the story was headed.
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