- The Book of Shocks and Shivers – Debbie PSL: #49 
Patsy Wood has talented siblings, so at times she feels quite ordinary beside them and wishes that she was good at something too. Despite her siblings or classmates winning prizes, she is not jealous and shows her good nature by genuinely being pleased for them and she shows her thoughtfulness when she finds a spectacles case and returns them to it’s owner. It is this act of helpfulness that actually leads to a lot of trouble for Patsy! The owner is a strange woman and Patsy finds the cottage she lives in quite creepy. Still not wanting to be rude, when the woman says she will grant her wishes, she does make a wish – that she could be different. The old woman woman sends Patsy on her way with a children’s picture book.
Patsy soon forgets all about the encounter and doesn’t notice when she knocks the book off her shelf, before going to school the next morning. At school, Patsy begins bragging about her sister and her dad’s new car. Her friends are also not happy with Patsy, when they miss their bus, waiting for Patsy to finish tidying her appearance. Then later at youth club netball game Patsy makes nasty comments about the other team’s appearance. At home Patsy wonders what made her act in such a way. She then notices the picture book on the floor, open on a page with a picture of a peacock. She finds it strange that she was acting proud and vain like a peacock, but thinks it’s silly to think there’s a connection. The next day, Patsy’s sister, Lorna, is looking through the book and leaves it open on an owl page. Meanwhile Patsy surprises herself by remembering all the answers for a history test, unfortunately it surprises her teacher too, who thinks she cheated! As she’s never been in trouble before the headmistress takes her word, but expects this better standard of work across all her subjects if this is the result of her making an effort. Later on a charity walk, the mist starts coming down and Patsy thinks they should turn back. She can’t persuade anyone else to come with her and while she is safe, she later finds out she missed out on a lot of fun. The others sheltered at farmers house, helped the police find missing children and completed their charity goal. It is after this that Patsy finds the book opened on the owl. So the next day she decides to try opening up to a page herself.
She chooses a bee as she thinks being “busy as a bee” can’t cause much trouble. But she is wrong as she insults a friend by not stopping to chat and a big tidy spree means she misses out on a picnic, she also gets in trouble with her mom for not helping her sister. She decides to return the book, but the cottage has disappeared! She wonders if the old woman was a witch, because she can’t think of any other explanation. Not able to return the book, she hides it under her bed instead. Things are going better now that she’s back to normal, she’s even nominated for class service award because of her cheerfulness and helpfulness. But at home Mom is tidying Patsy’s room and comes across the book, she puts it back on the shelf, but it falls open on a picture of a mule. Straight away Patsy refuses to help a new girl out and stubbornly takes her time in changing room after a prefect tells her to hurry up, causing her to miss her bus. She gets the next bus but her English teacher sees her refuse to give up her seat for an old lady. Her teacher will no longer recommend her for the award, meaning she will lose out because of the book again.
Patsy tries to get rid of the book throwing it in the bin, but it falls out when the bin collectors come around, opening on a picture of a fox. Patsy soon finds herself slyly getting out of class by feigning sickness and getting a girl in trouble for making a joke about her. She finds the book by the house and once again tries to get rid of it by throwing it in the river, while out with her family but her Lorna, finds it. Her brother teases her about it looking at a page of two crossed stick, this makes her bad tempered, she even insists she will walk home. She throws the book in a bin on the way home. Again the book returns to her as it has magically got her name and address written inside it. She tries to hide it in the wardrobe, but of course it doesn’t stay hidden long. This does work out better than some of the previous pages, as she becomes as courageous as a lion. She speaks up to tough teacher and rescues a cat from a tree. She goes on to rescue a girl from a mine shaft, she gets unwanted attention from reporters because of this. Even if it did good, Patsy doesn’t want to be turned into something she’s not. Looking through the book she comes up with the idea to stick her own picture on a blank page. That day Patsy is happy to be herself and she returns home to find the book has disappeared, the spell has been broken.
Another supernatural story to finish out this Halloween month. While I like the title, it doesn’t seem to fit with the actual content, I can maybe see the shocks but not too sure where the shivers come into it. To me “shocks and shivers” implies more creepiness/ spookiness, but it is an interesting title, maybe one they didn’t want to pass up. While the book causes problems, both it and the witch aren’t evil and malicious, it is Patsy’s own wish that is the start of the problem. We don’t find much out about the mysterious witch, or why her cottage disappeared, did she really want to grant Patsy’s wish or did she want to teach her a lesson? In any case it does teach Patsy to be happy with herself as the book only disappears after she accepts that. While most pages cause trouble, we can see how others may work out if one was inclined to be different, such as the lion. So it is good that Patsy sees she has good qualities herself and doesn’t need to be top of the class or a hero.
The way the book works is interesting using common idioms to model her behavior. Most of the time the reader sees the picture first and can guess how Patsy will act i.e the fox means she will be “sly as a fox”. A similar story “The Many Faces of Moppet” has a girl rescue a doll and finds herself acting accordingly to whatever expression the doll makes. In that case it is not something she wished for, and there doesn’t appear to be magic involved, but it does cause just as much problems as Patsy’s book. Patsy makes for a likeable protagonist, even when she wishes she could be as good at something like others, there is never jealousy of the people. Ironically her chance to win something due to her own good qualities is lost because of the book, Patsy hadn’t considered that being helpful and nice were special qualities themselves. I like the resolution of the story with Patsy using her own picture, like many cursed objects, the book cannot simply be gotten rid off to break the spell.