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The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods

Poppy put the kettle on the stove.
“Where did we leave off? Oh, that’s right,” Gran said, unpicking a few of the scales from a pair of beetle wings she was making. “The fabric made in the Helligan Mills became more and more famous. The town of Suds prospered and grew…until something odd began to happen.”
The kettle whistled as it began to boil and Poppy poured the hot water over the fragrant tea leaves.
“One by one, like the birds of summer, children began to vanish.”
Poppy put the kettle down and brought Grandma her tea.
“What do you mean? How did they vanish? When did this happen?”
Churchill the pig rested his snout on the edge of his basket, as if listening to the story too.
“I mean just what I say: children began to vanish. One here, one there. They faded away. I remember I was twenty-three when Wilma Norbles disappeared. Wilma was a swimming champion. Every day before school she would swim up and down the river like a seal, until one morning something peculiar began to happen. It started with Wilma’s eyes. Very slowly, little by little, their colour began to fade. Before she knew it, the colour from her hair began to drain away too. The last time Wilma climbed into the river, despite being ten years old, she was as grey as an old woman. People watching from the shore said that she took a deep breath, sunk beneath the water and dissolved like a blob of paint. Some said she was eaten by the old fish rumoured to live in the River Suds. But even I’m not superstitious enough to think that’s likely.”
Poppy nodded politely. She didn’t quite know if she believed her wily old gran. She was twelve after all, and twelve is the age when one truly starts reasoning what is real and what is fabricated.
“I can see you don’t believe me, but let me tell you this: ever since, and ever so slowly, the children of Suds have been dwindling away.”
“Where did they go?” Poppy asked. “When was the last time it happened?”
Gran looked at Poppy and answered only one of her questions. “No one knows. Sugar, my button. Two lumps.”
Poppy retrieved the sugar, heeding Grandma’s instructions.
“And what’s happened to the Mills now?”
“They’re still there,” said Gran, sipping her tea. “Somewhere in the woods outside of town. Riddling Woods. Neglected, ruined and overgrown. Whether the fabric which floats down the river comes from the Mills or not is anybody’s guess. People in the village like to say they are haunted.”
“Haunted,” said Gran. “By the ghost of a washerwoman who crouches beside the river’s edge, washing the stains from a grey cloth.”
“That’s not real,” muttered Poppy, her chest swimming with unease.
“It might not be real, but it’s a fact that people have seen her,” said Gran wryly. “Now, while your dad is away for the next few weeks and you’re staying with me here in Suds, I want you to follow four simple rules. No one else seems to bother with them these days, but I’m a bit old-fashioned sometimes, Poppy, and I like to stick to them.”
Poppy fetched her notepad from her backpack and wrote down what Grandma said. With each line she wrote, her fingers stiffened and her heart began to dance its familiar dance.

1. All washing must be done during the day. Bring your clothes in off the washing line (even if they are wet) before six o’clock every night.
2. All sugar cubes are to be kept under lock and key.
3. At night close your window, lock it, draw the curtains.
4. NEVER, DON’T YOU EVER, dust the window sills.

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This is the story of a sleepy town called Suds. A place where stories fill the air of children who keep turning grey and disappearing without a trace…

Poppy and Erasmus are certain there's something peculiar going on in Suds, and they're determined to unravel its secrets. But when they discover the answers might lie in the darking and twisting woods, can they find the courage to creep inside and solve this riddling mystery?

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Book information

ISBN: 9781474945660
Extent: 352 pages
Dimensions: 198 x 130mm
Hannah Peck

Author information

Samuel J. Halpin

Born in Tasmania with Irish roots, Samuel J. Halpin is 27 and writes daily. Having studied journalism at the University of New South Wales, Samuel went on to take cinematography at AFTRS, the national Australian film school in Sydney before moving to London and working in comedy TV production. The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods is his first answer to a childhood raised on a hodgepodge of fairy tales, crowded bookshelves and cups of hot chocolate.

Samuel J. Halpin on Twitter


Shortlisted - Junior Design Awards 2019

Best Children's Book 5+ category

Reader reviews

Read the following reviews or write one of your own.

“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
It is scary, sad and a bit confusing. The most confusing part was at the end with the Peggs and the silk makers.
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
I thought the book was excellent! It got quite scary at times and was really exciting.
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
Amazing and funny with just the right amount of intensity. One of the best books I’ve ever read, coming from a huge Hunger Games and Harry Potter fan.
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
I thought the book was so scary but because there was a mystery going on I couldn’t put the book down. I loved every part of this book.
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
This was a very good book and a little bit scary in places. Poppy and Erasmus annoyed me sometimes because they over thought things when they really just needed to calm down and listen to Misty.
It’s amazing - I’ve read it over and over and found it amazing. I can’t wait for the next one to come out.
“Bookseller Review”
One of the most intriguing and brilliant adventures I have read in a while. I absolutely loved the world that was created in Suds. I found that whilst there was mystery and [SPOILER ALERT] magic, this universe created by Sam was utterly real. The grief Poppy felt whilst with her gran, the difficult relationship between Erasmus and his mother, Misty grabbing onto the one person who really sees her. It was wonderful and beautiful and I want to go to Suds and meet Poppy, Erasmus and Misty and tell them they are brave little souls! And I want to pet Marley the dog so much! Such a smart doggo! Great book! Great fun! Wonderful read. 5/5 stars and definitely recommended for any boy, girl or other. I enjoyed the peculiar story of Peggs of Riddling Woods and will be recommending it to everyone.
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
When I started reading this book my head was filled with desperate thoughts about what the Erasmus and Poppy would do next. A thrilling story that I would really recommend age 9+
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
I really enjoyed this book as I found myself trying to piece the puzzles of Gran’s rules and the odd happenings in the town of Suds. This story is quite dark and cryptic in places. The main characters - Erasmus and Poppy support each other through the difficult times along the way.
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
It was mysterious and my daughter was excited to pick it up to read more. Highly recommend for readers 9+
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
Loved every chapter of this book. The writing style is so immersive and the magic woven throughout the adventure that main character Poppy goes on left me speechless!
“The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods”
This book is quite scary in places, but also an exciting read. My favourite character was Erasmus because he was clever and had a good memory. Fans of Harry Potter would love this book!

Press reviews

“The real joy of his writing lies in his ability to observe adult vanities through the eyes of a child.”
“Prepare for a quirky read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
“This is a pacey, edge-of-your-seat tale with a big heart”
“It is beautifully written and has characters you can enjoy getting to know. The story keeps you interested right through to the end.”
“A story woven in the finest of silk threads and stitched full of imagination. Poppy and Erasmus will warm even the coldest of beating hearts!”
“A deliciously dark fairytale.”
“With its fast-paced action, tantalising air of mystery, finely wrought balance between good and evil, and the stunning illustrations of Hannah Peck to add extra life and vibrancy, The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods is the best-stitched piece of adventure storytelling you will read this year. ”
“Darker in tone than much of the current crop of middle-grade adventures, Halpin weaves a tantalising web with echoes of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman.”
“a charmingly dark tale that's dripping with style. Drawing inspiration from fables and legends, it creates an adventure that will send a chill up even the bravest reader's spine.”
“An enjoyable balance of chills, mystery and humour all wrapped up inside a plot that will keep the youngest readers hooked until the very last page.”


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