The Bellwoods Game

by Celia Krampien (Author) Celia Krampien (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Doll Bones, this spooky, highly illustrated middle grade novel follows a girl who hopes to fix her outcast status through a game in the haunted woods, only to discover that some legends shouldn't be played with.

Everyone knows Fall Hollow is haunted. It has been ever since Abigail Snook went into the woods many years ago, never to be seen again. Since then, it's tradition for the sixth graders at Beckett Elementary to play the Bellwoods Game on Halloween night. Three kids are chosen to go into the woods. Whoever rings the bell there wins the game and saves the town for another year, but if Abigail's ghost captures the players first, the spirit is let loose to wreak havoc on Fall Hollow--or so the story goes. Now that it's Bailee's year to play, she can finally find out what really happens. And legend has it the game's winner gets a wish. Maybe, just maybe, if Bailee wins, she can go back to the way things used to be before her grandma got sick and everyone at school started hating her. But when the night begins, everything the kids thought they knew about the game and each other is challenged. One thing's for sure: something sinister is at play...waiting for them all in the woods.

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Publishers Weekly

On Halloween 1982, sixth grader Abigail Snook vanished from the Bellwoods while playing a game with her bully. As October 31 approaches in present-day Fall Hollow, the sixth graders of Beckett Elementary are preoccupied with that legend, which annually lures a group of classmates into the forest to play the Bellwoods Game. Horror fan Bailee Heron would rather stay home with her beloved Nan than head into the woods, but she decides that playing is the only way to clear up a misunderstanding that ostracized her from her class. According to the legend, Abigail's spirit reappears in the forest each year on the anniversary of her vanishing; per tradition, three tweens must play the game to its end in order to help her rest and save the town from chaos. The player who first rings an old bell in the woods banishes the spirit for another annum, but anyone caught by the spirit who lacks a gift to trade will be forced to sacrifice something truly dear. Once the game begins, however, Bailee realizes that the stories belie the game's complexity. Krampien (Sunny) intersperses atmospherically eerie b&w art throughout a tense friendship novel steeped in local lore. Bailee presents as white; secondary characters suggest racial diversity. Ages 8-12. Agent: Andrea Morrison, Writers House. (July)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"This gorgeously illustrated, atmospheric, and evocative debut captures the fun of being scared and the hard truths of middle school. . . Beautifully creepy."—Kirkus Reviews
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books
Publication date
July 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV018000 - Juvenile Fiction | Horror
Library of Congress categories
Ghost stories
Thrillers (Fiction)
Forests and forestry

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