HomeReviewsMiddle GradeReview: Small Spaces

Review: Small Spaces

Small Spaces

Title: Small Spaces
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Middle Grade, Horror, Suspense
Page Count: 224
Published by: Puffin Books
Date Published: September 25, 2018
You can find a copy here: Bookshop.org


When eleven-year-old brainy bookworm, Ollie, sees a woman about to throw a book into the river, she has to intervene! Without thinking about it she quickly snatches the book and bikes away, escaping to her cozy home where she lives with her dad, to settle in for a long read.

But this odd tale surrounding a farm 100 years ago, a girl, and two disappearing men who make a bad deal with “The Smiling Man”, oddly seems familiar. At school the next day she learns of local folklore surrounding a nearby farm with a very similar ghost story, of which she and her class are about to visit on a class field trip. Once there, Ollie realizes the owner of the farm is the same woman who was trying to throw away the book the night before!

Even stranger, on the way home the bus breaks down in the fog and the spooky bus driver imparts a warning “best get moving, at nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you” before her broken digital wristwatch imparts a single message … RUN. Joined by only two of her classmates Ollie escapes into the nearby fields full of scarecrows and mist with the last words of the bus driver echoing in her head “avoid large places at night, keep to small.”


Being super impressed with Katherine Arden’s ability to impart a sense of classic folklore into her writing as per The Bear and the Nightingale, I was super intrigued by her first foray into middle grade.

Small Spaces is the perfect read to snuggle up with on a cold October morning with a cup of coffee and a blanket. Full of great characters, disassembling stereotypes, and touching on big topics of bullying, acceptance and grief this is a completely original ghost story that somehow also felt like classic folklore I’d have heard before. Taking common elements of “found spaces” … aka Narnia …with straight up spine-chilling horror (charmed food full of maggots anyone?) this small story packs a lot into its small page footprint.

Small Spaces is a chilling story with characters that I thoroughly enjoyed, perfect pitch, and genuinely spooky, completely atmospheric fall vibes. While I did come away wanting a bit more, which could be because of expectations after reading The Bear and the Nightingale, this did entertain me and I believe it will be a hit for the audience it was intended. It might be a bit too scary for the younger or more sensitive middle grade reader, but will be a definite pleaser of the “Goosebumps” crowd (or whatever its modern day equivalent is!) A ton of heart and a good dose of scary combine to make a good-ole-fashioned ghost story.

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