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Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens by Allison Rushby

Title: Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

A young girl holding a lantern in front of an old building. She has red hair and is dressed in blue. She has a monkey on her shoulder. A brown banner below her reads Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens in navy text. Below the banner are three spotted kittens in bonnets and top hats having tea and cake. Red writing at the bottom reads Allison Rushby. The images are bordered by purple swirls.

Author: Allison Rushby

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, School Stories, Paranormal

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 3rd August 2022

Format: Paperback

Pages: 144

Price: $15.99


“Now, Miss Pickering.” Miss Strickland turned to her pupil. “If you would be so kind as to close the door behind you, we will endeavour to discuss why your aunt, her publisher and her monkey have called upon us this afternoon.”

An enquiring mind – and mystical mysteries to solve – adds up to adventure in the first book of the new junior fiction series from acclaimed author Allison Rushby.

Forever in trouble for sketching in her notebook, Penny Pickering dreams of her famous authoress aunt turning up at her boarding school and whisking her away. So when Aunt Harriet appears at Miss Strickland’s School for Girls of an Enquiring Mind and asks Penny if she would like to join her on an adventure, Penny knows exactly what to say – yes, please!

Penny soon finds herself headed for Hampshire and a strange place called Mr Toddington’s Museum of the Curious and Absurd where bewitched kittens are said to have a tea party at midnight. But all is not what it seems.


It’s 1872, and Penny Pickering is attending Miss Strickland’s School for Girls of an Enquiring Mind, whilst her parents are away somewhere. Penny realises she hasn’t heard from them in a while – and then her Aunt Harriet, who writes mystery novels called penny dreadfuls shows up to take her away on an adventure in Hampshire. Here, they stumble across a museum of curiosities – Mr Toddington’s Museum of the Curious and Absurd – where there are bewitched kittens having a midnight tea party. Yet Penny senses there is something strange going on – that there is more to the story than meets the eye, and when she notices Lucy asking people something and being told no, Penny thinks there is something more going on – but can she find out what Lucy and Mr Toddington are up to, and why, and do what she can to solve the mystery?

The first in a new series sees the fantastically creative and enquiring Penny Pickering, known affectionately to her aunt as Penny Dreadful, enter the mystery and adventure scene for younger readers, though as an adult reader, I was thoroughly enthralled and felt right at home, as it is exactly the kind of book I would have read when I was a child, so it suited me perfectly. I loved that Penny was creative as well, showing that creative kids have stories as well as sporty kids or adventurous kids, which seem to have been in the spotlight for so long. Now, I’m seeing a joyful sharing of the shelves where characters of all kinds are shining and we are getting beautiful love letters like this to creativity and creative people, and in this instance, with bewitched kittens involved!

I was entranced from the first page, where Penny is drawing a schoolgirl eating bear, and is summoned to meet her aunt, her aunt’s publisher and a monkey – what an opening chapter! Throughout the novel, hints are dropped about Penny’s parents, which feels like it will lead into the next novel at least, if not an overarching theme and storyline for the whole series, which will, I think, keep readers interested. Much like an ongoing plot throughout a season of a TV show does as it weaves in and out of individual stories and mysteries. I love this sort of thing, because it reminds readers that there is something else going on that shapes the entire series, and all the characters alongside the focal plot of each book. And Penny Dreadful’s adventure is fast-paced and exciting – and I love that the story is female-driven, even though there is the ever-worrying threat of Aunt Harriet’s publisher, Mr Crowley. I couldn’t help but wonder if there is more to him than meets the eye, and we’re going to find out more in later books. He definitely felt suspect to me.

This fantastic book kept me reading it all in one sitting. It was one that I could not put down because I wanted to find out what happened, and I’m glad I did, because it was an exciting and not too scary read – so for those of us who don’t enjoy scary stories, this is a perfect book, as it also gives us a nice ending filled with hope, and that will lead into future books that I am sure will be just as wonderful and exciting, and filled with fantastic female characters who do not always do as they are told or expected.

Another great Allison Rushby book!

1 thought on “Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens by Allison Rushby”

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