Small Spaces
Small Spaces

Small Spaces

by Katherine Arden

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New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic. Now in paperback.

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man"—a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods—bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them—the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small."
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525515029
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 39,940
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

Read an Excerpt

She pedaled hard past the hay bales in the roundabout on Main Street, turned onto Daisy Lane and raced past the clapboard houses, where jack-o’-lanterns grinned on every front porch. She aimed her bike to knock down a rotting gray rubber hand groping up out of the earth in the Steiners’ yard, turned again at Johnson Hill and climbed panting up the steep dirt road.

No one came after her. Well, why would they, Ollie thought. She was Off School Property.

Ollie let her bike coast down the other side of Johnson Hill. was good to be alone in the warm sunshine. The river ran silver to her right, chattering over rocks. The fire-colored trees shook their leaves down around her. It wasn’t hot, exactly—but warm for October. Just cool enough for jeans, but the sun was warm when you tilted your face to it.

The swimming hole was Ollie’s favorite place. Not far from her house, it had a secret spot on a rock half-hidden by a waterfall. That spot was Ollie’s, especially on fall days. After mid-September, she was the only one there. People didn’t go to swimming holes once the weather turned chilly.
Other than her homework, Ollie was carrying Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini, a broken-spined paperback that she’d dug out of her dad’s bookshelves. She mostly liked it. Peter Blood outsmarted everyone, which was a feature she liked in heroes, although she wished Peter were a girl, or the villain were a girl, or someone in the book besides his boat and his girlfriend (both named Arabella) were a girl. But at least the book had romance and high seas adventures and other absolutely not Evansburg things. Ollie liked that. Reading it meant going to a new place where she wasn’t Olivia Adler at all.

Ollie braked her bike. The ground by the road was carpeted with scarlet leaves; sugar maples start losing their leaves before other trees. Ollie kept a running list in her head of sugar maples in Evansburg that didn’t belong to anyone. When the sap ran, she and her mom would—

Nope. No, they wouldn’t. They could buy maple syrup.

The road that ran beside the swimming hole looked like any other stretch of road. A person just driving by wouldn’t know the swimming hole was there. But, if you knew just where to look, a skinny dirt trail went from the road to the water. Ollie walked her bike down the trail. The trees seemed to close in around her. Above was a white-railed bridge. Below, the stream paused in its trip down the mountain. It spread out, grew deep and quiet enough for swimming. There was a cliff for jumping and plenty of hiding places for one girl and her book. Ollie hurried. She was eager go and read by the water and be alone.

The trees ended suddenly, and Ollie was standing on the bank of a cheerful brown swimming hole.
But, to her surprise, there was someone already there.

A slender woman, wearing jeans and flannel, stood at the edge of the water. Her jeans were nice, her flannel soft, but her boots were muddy and worn, the leather cracking across one heel.
The woman was sobbing.

Maybe Ollie’s foot scuffed a rock, because the woman jerked upright and whirled around. Ollie gulped. The woman was pretty, with amber-honey hair. But she had circles under her eyes like purple thumbprints. Streaks of mascara had run down her face, like she’d been crying for awhile.

“Hello,” The woman said, trying to smile. “You surprised me.” Her eyes looked—stretched—the way a dog looks, hiding under the bed during a thunderstorm. Her white-knuckled hands gripped a small, dark thing.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Ollie said cautiously.

Why are you crying? she wanted to ask. But it seemed impolite to ask that question to a grown-up, even if her face was streaked with the runoff from her tears.

The woman didn’t reply; she darted a glance to the rocky path by the creek, then back to the water. Like she was looking out for something. Or someone.

Ollie felt a chill creep down her spine. She said, “Are you okay?”

“Of course.” The woman tried to smile again. Fail. The wind rustled the leaves. Ollie glanced behind her. Nothing.

“I’m fine,” repeated the woman. She turned the dark thing over in her hands. Then she said, in a rush, “I just have to get rid of this. Put it in the water. And then—” The woman broke off.

Then? What then? The woman held the thing out over the water. Ollie saw that it was a small black book, the size of her spread-out hand, with a cloth cover, its pages stained deep yellow.

Her reaction was pure reflex. “You can’t throw away a book!” Ollie let go of her bike and jumped forward. Part of her wondered, Why would you come here to throw a book in the river? You can donate a book. There were donation boxes all over Evansburg.

“I have to!” snapped the woman, bringing Ollie up short. The woman went on, half to herself, “That’s the bargain. Make the arrangements. Then give the book to the water.” She gave Ollie a pleading look. “I don’t have a choice, you see.”

Ollie tried to drag the conversation out of crazy town. “You can donate a book if you don’t want it,” she said firmly. “Or—or give it to someone. Don’t just throw it in the river.”

“I have to,” said the woman again.

“Have to drop a book in the river?”

“Before tomorrow,” said the woman. Almost to herself, she whispered, “Tomorrow’s the day.”

Ollie was nearly within arm’s reach now. The woman smelled sour—frightened. Ollie, completely at sea, decided to ignore the stranger elements of the conversation. Later, she would wish she hadn’t. “If you don’t want that book, I’ll take it,” said Ollie. “I like books.”

The woman shook her head. “He said water. Upstream. Where Lethe Creek runs out of the mountain. I’m here. I’m doing it!” She shrieked the last sentence as though someone besides Ollie was listening. Ollie had to stop herself from looking behind her again.

“Why?” she asked. Little mouse feet crept up her spine.

“Who knows?” the woman whispered. “Just his game, maybe. He enjoys what he does, you know, and that is why he’s always smiling—” She smiled too, a joyless pumpkin-head grin.

Ollie nearly yelped. But instead, her hand darted up and she snatched the book. It felt old under her fingers, gritty with dust. Surprised at her own daring, Ollie hurriedly backed up.

The woman’s face turned red. “Give that back!” A glob of spit hit Ollie in the cheek.

“I don’t think so,” said Ollie. “You don’t want it anyway.” She was backing toward her bike, half expecting the woman to fling herself forward.

The woman was staring at Ollie as if really seeing her for the first time. “Why—?” A horrified understanding dawned on her face that Ollie didn’t understand. “How old are you?”

Ollie was still backing toward her bike. “Twelve,” she answered, by reflex. Almost there . . .

“Twelve?” the woman breathed. “Twelve. Of course, twelve.” Ollie couldn’t tell if the woman were giggling or crying. Maybe both. “Its his kind of joke—” She broke off, leaned forward to whisper. “Listen to me, Twelve. I’m going to tell you one thing, because I’m not a bad person. I just didn’t have a choice. I’ll give you some advice, and you give me the book.” She had her hand out, fingers crooked like claws.

Ollie, poised on the edge of flight, said, “Tell me what?” The stream rushed and rippled, but the harsh sounds of the woman breathing were louder than the water.

“Avoid large places at night,” the woman breathed. “Keep to small.”

“Small?” Ollie was torn between wanting to run and wanting to understand. “That’s it?”

“Small!” shrieked the woman. “Small spaces! Keep to small spaces or see what happens to you! Just see!” She burst into wild laughter. The animatronic witch sitting outside the Brewsters’ next to a cauldron of dry ice laughed like that. “Now give me that book!” Her laughter turned into a whistling, shrieking sob; her hands reached out, snatching.

Ollie heaved the Schwinn around and fled with it up the trail from the creek. The woman’s footsteps scraped behind. “Come back!” she panted. “Come back!”

Ollie was already on the main road, her leg thrown over the bike’s saddle. She rode home as fast as she could, bent low over her handlebars, hair streaming in the wind, the book lying in her pocket like a secret.


Excerpted from "Small Spaces"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Katherine Arden.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Small Spaces 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Book_and_recipe_Examiner More than 1 year ago
Olivia Adler is in the sixth grade. Her dad is a fantastic baker, and her mom, well...she was very adventurous. Olivia was too, when her mom was still alive. Now she only wants to read books and hang out at home, a brightly colored place she calls the Egg. But while passing the river after a rough day at school when she defended a girl being bullied, Olivia comes across a weeping woman about to throw a small black book into the river. She stops the woman, snatches the book, and pedals home as fast as she can on her bike. The book turns out to be a diary of a woman who died over a hundred years ago, Beth Webster. She wrote down her tragedy as a warning to others: There once were two brothers who fought over a girl. One brother died, and because of his mother’s broken heart, the living brother made a deal with the “smiling man” to bring his deceased brother back. The mysterious woman by the river calls out a final warning to the departing Olivia: “when the mist rises, avoid large places at night. Keep to small.” It is up to Olivia to solve the mystery and save the lives of her friends from the terrifying, powerful smiling man. Small Spaces is a riveting, frightening—even for adults—story about the ancient battle between good versus evil, and where the true source of power lies. For Discussion Questions, a themed recipe of Apple Pie Bites with Maple Oat Crumble, or a list of similar books, visit:
Cyn_Ayala23 4 months ago
What a delightfully creepy novel. Small Spaces is one of those novels that is perfect for those dark and stormy nights, or even just at night in general. Arden did a fantastic job with this piece. She created an unputdownable novel about a young girl sucked into another world outside our own, a world between life and death set in a cornfield with creepy scarecrows that come to life as the sun sets. It is wonderful. Arden’s language and tone create a beautiful setting, beginning with nothing spectacular but undoubtedly eerie, as Ollie heads home after school one day. It seems like nothing remarkable, but Arden weaves in a remarkable eerie tone to unleash unease onto the reader. From the opening pages, something is unsettling about everything happening around Ollie. She rescues a book from someone who seems deranged and heads home, discovering something eerie and mesmerizing about the novel she is reading. Moreover, when she goes on a school field trip, she discovers something scarier. Her watch is guiding her, helping her along, as her school bus breaks down, fog rolls in, and silence settles around her. For Ollie and her two friends, it is a journey to not only save themselves but to unravel the mystery and save their class as well. It is incredibly perfect how the story moves, maintaining that spooky element, there is also something mature in the storytelling. Ollie lost her mother in a tragic accident sometime before the novel begins. She is still reeling, trying to move on with her life, but she is not going about it healthily. Ollie isolates herself and lingers on the past, often lingering on the event through hints given to the reader by descriptions tone. However, through the watch and through the events that follow, Ollie learns to make peace with her mothers’ death and learns that her mother is always with her, allowing her to open up again in school and move on. Small Spaces is a fantastic novel that is incredibly spooky that deals with mature themes making for an incredible read.
Meemo_B 5 months ago
I've seen a lot of rave reviews for Katherine Arden's writing, but I'd never read one of her books before reading this one. While I don't read a lot of middle-grade books, I do enjoy the occasional one and this was an excellent choice. Very atmospheric, I could feel the chill in the New England autumn air despite reading this in August in Florida. And there are plenty of creepy goings-on to send chills down a middle-graders' spine. As a mom, I loved the element of a mother's love transcending time. Well done overall, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
Stacy_Renee 5 months ago
This was the perfect read to get me in the mood for Autumn! For middle-grade, I thought it was surprisingly spooky! Ollie has lost someone very close to her and withdraws into the only thing that can keep her thoughts at bay; books. When she comes across a panicked woman about to toss an actual book in the local swimming hole, she grabs it and runs. She reads the story of a girl, the two brothers that loved her, and the 'smiling man' that they made a mysterious deal with. The next day she goes on a field trip to a local farm and stumbles upon the gravestones of the characters in the book she is reading. Just as strange, there are too many scarecrows at this farm. Ollie is happy to leave but when they do, the bus breaks down and it quickly grows dark. When the bus driver, a strange man from the farm, issues an odd warning that "they'll come for you at nightfall," Ollie decides to make a run for it. She is followed by only two of her classmates and they quickly escape the fate that awaited them. But not for long. Something is after them and the only way they can stay alive is to stick to the small spaces. I really loved the character growth in this book. Olivia Adler, better known as Ollie, is estranged from her peers by the death of a loved one and not too keen on making new friends. She has lost interest in her social hobbies and instead finds solace in books but when two of her classmates follow her into the dark at the farm, she soon learns she's not always better off on her own. This ended up being so much more than I thought it would be! It starts out as a ghost story and then takes a twist into terrifying territory! There's suspense, a need for survival, and a lot of supernatural elements to this story! I will definitely never look at scarecrows the same way after this! I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel, Dead Voices, which comes out later this month!
Kamisha 6 months ago
I absolutely adored this middle grade spooky story and it was such a perfect read for me right now, as I’m desperately longing for the fall season! This story was written so well that at times it did not even feel like middle grade to me. It is written with an ease that could work for middle grade readers, teens and adults. And to top it all off, the “horror” factor in Small Spaces is actually pretty creepy, even for someone like me who loves horror! I was so impressed with the creepy way that Katherine Arden portrayed the scarecrows and the “Smiling Man,” it felt like reading a modernized version of a classic scary fairytale. In Small Spaces the main character, Olivia (Ollie), is having a hard time coping with the loss of her mother and has retreated into herself, preferring not to make friends and just to read books instead. (Something I can definitely relate to!) When Ollie happens upon a strange woman trying to throw away a book into the river, she steals the book and unknowingly begins immersing herself in an all too real ghost story. When her school takes a trip to the nearby farm, Smoke Hollow, the next day and their bus breaks down on the way out of the farm, Ollie is forced to reconcile the book she’s been reading and the real world horror that is happening around them. Ollie and two other students escape the bus before nightfall and head into the woods, the creepy bus driver’s final words their only directions, “avoid large spaces. Keep to small.” This story was just such a delight in so many ways. I absolutely loved the horror element of the story and how that played out, but the characters were so enjoyable as well. This story truly celebrates smart kids in so many ways. Ollie loves books and critical thinking. Coco, though being the smallest person and most often ridiculed in their class, loves rock climbing and is immensely brave. We find out later as Ollie gets to know Coco better, that Coco is also really good at chess. The third main character, Brian, is a super smart kid and Ollie also ends up finding out he reads a lot, despite being a popular jock kid. These three quickly become closer as they fight their way through this scary, shadowy world they are trapped in, and both Coco and Brian teach Ollie that people can surprise you, and you shouldn’t always confine them to predetermined cliches. The ending and resolution of Ollie’s fight with the “smiling man” was also such a delight to read, because of it’s nod to clever tricksters and Ollie finding her own way around the smiling man’s “deals.” This story is also ultimately about Ollie finding her courage to live and participate in the real world again, even with her Mother being gone. I loved this story so much and I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Dead Voices!
MusicInPrint 6 months ago
This was a page turner read that was done in one sitting. Great for Teens with a bit of Horror mixed in. Great Halloween/October reading. High school students with ordinary life issues hold hands to battle evil ghosts and scarecrows. "A copy of this book was provided by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers via NetGalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion." READ AFTER DARK WITH THE DOORS LOCKED!
Jolie 7 months ago
When I saw that Katherine Arden wrote small Spaces, I knew I had to read it. I was a massive fan of the Winternight Trilogy, and I had high expectations of Small Spaces. Unfortunately, it fell short for me. Ollie is an eleven-year-old who suffered a tragic loss. Refusing to talk about what happened, Ollie shut herself from the world. Her only solace was reading. After defending a new student from bullies, Ollie goes to her secret reading area. There she meets a deranged woman about to throw a book in a stream. Stealing the book, Ollie reads a story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and the smiling man. The next day, Ollie takes a field trip to Smoke Hollow, where she notices something strange about the scarecrows. When the bus breaks down on the way home, Ollie’s teacher goes back to the farm to get help. The bus driver warns Ollie and her friends to start running. Then he says, “Avoid large places, keep to small.” After that, her watch, the last physical thing her mother was wearing the day she died, spells out the word “Run.” That’s when the adventure begins. What will happen to Ollie and her friends? Who is the smiling man? How is he connected to what was happening to Ollie? And what exactly does the bus driver mean? I thought Small Spaces storyline was fantastic. It was creepy enough for upper elementary/middle school-aged children. I did like the characters, but I felt that there was not a lot of depth to them. Ollie was the loner with a tragic past, Brian was the jock who had a hidden side to him, and Coco was the new girl who was trying too hard to fit in. The author did try to make them more fleshed out. Brian quoting Alice in Wonderland did surprise me. As did Coco revealing that she used to rock climb before she moved to Evansburg. But other than that, I didn’t get a connection with them. Revealing Ollie’s tragic past sooner would have been an asset to the book. I did guess at what happened early on in the book, but it took forever for it come out. I wanted to reach into the book and hug her. I did have an issue with the formatting what reading Small Spaces. I would be reading a paragraph, and then random numbers would appear (example: running in the 1. woods). It made it hard for me to read the book and did take away from my enjoyment of it. It also affected my rating. I also thought that paranormal/horror angle of the book was almost too understated for me. I am an adult and used to more scares. But, as I said above, this would be a perfect book for middle-grade kids. But for adults, no. The end of the book left me feeling unfulfilled. While I liked what Ollie did, I was left wanting more. There is a book 2, which I would like to read.
Lsmdtb5 7 months ago
Scarecrows can be scary! This was a really good book. Different, for sure. I enjoyed meeting Ollie and the rest of the characters. I will recommend this to my kids at school for sure. This is a great middle grade book, interesting enough for adults. Scarecrows, old book, school trip,... what can go wrong?
Anonymous 7 months ago
Small Spaces a fun and creepy middle grade book by bestselling author Katherine Arden. I decided to read this because the second book in the series, Dead Voices, is being released at the end of this month (8/27). Main character, Ollie, comes into possession of a creepy old book that seems to tell a ghost story of an old farm near her hometown. Horror ensues when her class ends up taking a field trip to this same farm.I'd been searching for a story that would remind of the feeling I enjoyed as a kid when reading Goosebumps books and I wasn't disappointed. The nostalgia was strong here. It also really got me in the mood for fall and Halloween. I can't wait for the next one now.
Momma_Becky 8 months ago
When I read the blurb for Small Spaces, I thought it would be fun to read along with my two mid-grade kiddos. One's a girly-girl, and the other is all rough and tough boy, so they have vastly different interests. They do, however, both love creepy stories and very little scares either of them. Needless to say, I was surprised when both of them scooted a little closer to me during some parts of this book. I was also a little relieved. Those scarecrows are downright creepy. With that in mind, I wouldn't recommend this one for younger kids or even older ones who are easily scared, but if your kids enjoy RL Stine, Stranger Things, and Goosebumps, they should like this one, and they'll even learn a few lessons along the way. The story is well-written and Arden certainly has a gift for setting a scene, the characters are developed, and the storyline covers a variety of genres and does a great job of tackling some tough topics, especially for that age group.
All_the_Ups_and_Downs 9 months ago
I love creepy books, so when I came across Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, it immediately caught my attention. I don't normally read middle grade fiction, but I do make an exception for middle grade horror, and I'm really glad I had the chance to read Small Spaces. Olivia, or Ollie as she prefers, is in middle school. She loves reading and books, so when she comes across a sobbing lady getting ready to throw a book in a river, she steals it before the woman has a chance to do so. Ollie thinks the book she stole is just a creepy ghost story, but she soon realizes it is anything but fiction! When her class goes on a field trip to a farm, Ollie realizes just how true the book is. When the field trip bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Ollie and two friends decided to leave the bus fearing that they may be in even worse danger if they stay on the bus. With the help of her broken watch from her deceased mother, Ollie must be very careful if she wants to return home unscathed. I did enjoy the plot of Small Spaces. I felt like I was reading a R.L. Stine novel! Katherine Arden did such a fantastic job with this story in keeping it interesting. There were a few times were the story felt a little disjointed with what was going on as it sometimes seemed as if Small Spaces wanted to be more of a ghost story other than what it actually was. However, it was still a great plot! There was one plot twist I didn't see coming which I thought was great considering I'm an adult, and this is a middle grade story. Usually I can figure out the plot twists, but not this time! One thing that got me wondering is how all these 11 and 12 year old kids each had their own cell phone. I know it's not impossible for a whole class of junior high children to have a cell phone, but it just seems improbable. While most of my questions were answered, I was left pondering over the ending as to why more questions weren't asked by the police or the parents. Another question I had, I won't go into detail because of spoilers, but it pertained to the kids and the water. I'll just leave it at that. Although Small Spaces is a series, it can be read as a standalone as there is no cliff hanger ending. The pacing for Small Spaces starts out a bit slow, but it picks up quickly to a fantastic pace a few chapters in. It stays at a decent pace for the majority of the book until it slows a little bit towards the ending. I wouldn't say the pacing lets the book down in any way though. I felt all the characters in Small Spaces were written very well especially as the main characters were written as middle schoolers. I felt every character was solid. I didn't really care for Ollie's personality though. For the first half of the book, especially, she came across as a bully. As this book is aimed towards kids that are impressionable, it kind of irked me that the main character was a little mean to others. I liked Brian. I thought he seemed like he'd be a great kid in real life. I admire how he wasn't ashamed to show his emotions at certain times. My favorite character was Coco. Coco had just moved from the city to Ollie's middle school. She seemed really vulnerable, yet Ollie was mean to her a lot of the time. I just wanted to hug and protect Coco. She was such a sweet girl to everyone unlike Ollie. Coco came across as a happy go lucky girl. Trigger warnings in Small Spaces besides being a scary story include death, minor violence, a minor profanity (one of the characters says hell),
DiiFL 9 months ago
It was grief that sent a young girl into a world of imagination, suspense and even a little middlegrade horror. SMALL SPACES by Katherine Arden is a little chilling and yet, the adventure is perfect for younger readers as it zooms past without getting bogged down in “adult” details! Hidden within this well-written tale is a story of love and friendship that will warm an adult’s heart! Looking for a perfect Halloween read for kids? Something that will make their spines tingle with excitement and a touch of scary fun? I truly enjoyed this tale, even as an adult, with characters who genuinely feel like kids, act like kids, but just remember, stick to the SMALL SPACES and maybe leave a flashlight close at hand! I received a complimentary copy from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers!
DragonNimbus 9 months ago
I've read the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. They are among my favorite books. I was curious to see how she did with a story for a younger audience - I am delighted, and a little spooked! Small Spaces is about Ollie (Olivia), a twelve year old girl who recently lost her mother in a horrible accident. Overcome with grief, she quit her school clubs and no longer hangs out with her friends, losing herself in her books and picking fights. She comes across a hysterical woman preparing to throw a book in the river. Horrified, Ollie snags the book and flees for the safety of her room, fighting with her father and forgoing a delicious dinner to bury herself in the book. It turns out to be a diary of sorts written by Beth Webster to her daughter in 1895, relating a scary, true story tale and cautioning the reader to stay in small spaces where "they can't get to you," Ollie thinks she's found a really good, very old and spooky book and is having difficulty putting it down. When her 6th grade class heads into the Vermont country side to a farm run by Linda Webster, a direct descendant of the author of the book, Ollie starts to notice things are not as they should be. Something is giving Ollie the creeps in a big way - perhaps fueled by all the scarecrows populating the farm. It is when the bus breaks down on the way home, the driver shares creepy advice, and Ollie leaves the bus to seek a small space that things start going very wrong. She's accompanied by the new girl, Coco Zintner, and hockey star Brian Brattersby, neither of whom she particularly likes. Ollie works with her two partners to solve the mystery and make their way back to safety. The kids have to pull out all their skills and ingenuity to survive. In the course of their terrifying adventure, Ollie is able to come to terms with her grief and let the world and her new friends in. Katherine Arden has crafted a compelling story - it was difficult to put down. The characters, especially Ollie, are so relateable and very well developed. I was on the edge of my seat as I navigated the back woods of Vermont, hid from scarecrows and ached for Ollie and her father. Kids are going to love this. It is just scary enough to cause a major case of the creeps, but age appropriate, nothing over the top. This would be a great book to read aloud, or to use in a reading group or book club. There are lots of topics for discussion. I can't wait until I can purchase Small Spaces for our school library. The sequel, Dead Voices, is available in August. I'm eager to read that as well! I'm thrilled to have a new series to recommend!!
Marta Cox 10 months ago
Three and a half This is a well written spooky story set near Halloween. It features twelve year old children whose bus breaks down at what is commonly known as a haunted farm. It was easy to read and indeed I actually read it in one sitting but because of the creepy content I'm honestly not sure if a child in middle grade would be able to sleep at night after reading this ! There's a strong protagonist who is going through a crisis of her own following the recent death of her mother but I really liked Ollie. She's brave, resilient and considers others feelings. This was quite atmospheric and I loved the growth that the central characters went through. Best of all though is that for all the angst and terror good prevailed against evil so maybe I will be able to sleep tonight after all ! This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair
SkyeWright 10 months ago
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher I was able to read this book in exchange for an honest review. *** Small Spaces by Katherine Arden is a delightful creepy middle school read about 6th grader Ollie. Ollie is quiet and likes her books and numbers more than she likes dealing with other people, especially when people are still giving her the sympathy face over the loss of her mother. When Ollie rescues a book from being tossed into the river she gets more than she bargained for when she’s told to avoid large spaces at night and to hide in small spaces and as she reads the book she discovers a chilling story about missing people and a smiling man who makes bargains. But it’s just a story right? Ollie is a fun character, she is quiet, smart and brave. Her companions Coco, an accident prone but sweet girl, and Brian, field hockey champion and popular guy, help compliment her and she them as they try to solve the mystery they find themselves in as scarecrows come alive and try to capture them. Where are they, can they save themselves and their classmates, and who is the smiling man? I breezed through this book, I loved it so much. A fantastic read.
MayaTheBookExplorerBlog 10 months ago
I loved it! From the beginning to finish, I liked everything about it. My last reads weren't that great, so I really needed a good book to lift my spirits and this one definitely did the job. The story is so intriguing and the plot just pulls you in. Also the characters are wonderful. They mature and form a closer bond through their nightmare school trip, and what a trip it was. This book is all about adventure, friendship and love. These things can shine the light even in the darkest places. What an amazing story!
Anonymous 11 months ago
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this middle-grade book quite a lot. After finishing The Winter of the Witch, I was in a bit of book hangover so I decided to see what else Katherine Arden has written because I needed more of her writing just as soon as possible. When I found out that she had recently published a middle-grade novel, I was really quite eager to get my hands on it so I put in a request at my local library and waited for my turn with the book. I am so glad that I decided to check this book out. I liked this book as an adult but I am pretty sure that as a child I would have absolutely loved it. I found this book to be a really quick read, reading it in its entirety on a single morning. I don't think that I put it down even once which says a whole lot about the book. The writing had a really wonderful flow as I would expect from this author. Ollie is a rather spunky girl who has been through a whole lot. When she sees a woman throwing a book into the water, she feels like she needs to save it so she does. Her class takes a field trip to a local farm the next day where she runs into the same woman once again. That is when things really start to get strange. I loved the atmosphere in this story. This is a really spooky story which could at times be rather intense. As the story progressed, we learned more about what Ollie has been through and I fell in love with her character. She really was a very brave girl. Two of her friends are with her and I really liked seeing how they worked together and grew close over the course of the story. I would recommend this book to fans of middle-grade stories. This book featured a wonderful group of characters making their way through a difficult and often spooky situation. I loved how hopeful the book's ending was and enjoyed some of the more touching moments along the way. I definitely plan to read more of this series once it is available.
CaptainsQuarters More than 1 year ago
Ahoy there me mateys! Ever since I read the bear and the nightingale, I have been in love with this author’s writing. So while waiting for book 3 of that trilogy, I thought I would give her middle-grade novel a whirl because I don’t put age limits on reading. And this was a fun one. This story follows Ollie who finds solace in being alone and reading in order to escape the pain of losing her mother. Then one cold day she goes to her favorite spot by the creek to find someone has gotten there first! An older woman is there raving about a book and is preparing to toss it into the water. But Ollie can’t let a book be destroyed and so she grabs it and runs. Curious about the book, she begins to read what appears to be a journal and becomes completely engrossed. But suddenly weird things are happening in her town that seem to mirror that of the book. Can Ollie solve the mystery before bad things happen to everyone around her? I absolutely adored Ollie and her schoolmates Coco and Brian! I loved watching their relationships and beliefs about one another change because they are thrown together in their unusual situation. I also thought this was a poignant portrayal of loss and depression – both for Ollie and her dad. Ollie uses books to help her with her grief. It shows how two people can love each other and yet grown distance because of pain. I also loved her dad for his baking, paint choices, and silly jokes. But the book does have its creepy moments with ghosts, getting lost, and an evil being. Oh and the scarecrows. I have never been one to think scarecrows were anything less than harmless. But I may have to rethink that sentiment and look over me shoulder whenever in a corn field. Eek! I think this be a delightful book with wonderful themes and lessons. Go get a copy. That’s an order. Arrr!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I waited forever for it to become available and bought it almost as soon as it came out. I finished it in about a day! The storyline is amazing, I could NOT put it down! :)
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
This was really good! With a broken-down bus, scarecrows, ghosts and a mysterious book, I thought this book had an excellent storyline connecting the present with the past. Since the synopsis is long and detailed, I won’t go into the whole story. I found myself flipping pages as Ollie begins reading from the book, Small Spaces, that she obtained from the lady at the river. As she reads about the cunning deal that was arranged with the Smiling Man, it was as if I was reading a fairy tale. Later, as her classmates’ head out for their field trip, conversation begins about the farm’s history. Their destination today is a farm that is said to be haunted. As they describe the details of this haunting, my excitement raced as these specifics sound similar to the book that Ollie was reading. Is their bus headed to a haunted farm that is connected to the Smiling Man? This book is labeled as a middle school read but I feel that some mature elementary school students would enjoy getting their hands on it. It’s not graphic, just creepy and spooky, it’s a haunting read.
MaleehaS More than 1 year ago
What a fun and spooky ride! The perfect fall read for middle grade (and adult) readers. I loved all of the characters with their realistic, heartfelt, and humorous interactions. Arden also did a wonderful job of incorporating dealing with death and solving a centuries-old legend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love creepy adventures this is for you. Our heroine Ollie is smart, brave, and broken. Her deep love of books and family gives the story a warmth that is missing in most creepy ghost stories. Katherine Arden has crafted another beautiful tale that i will reread over and over.