Tag Archive: ghosts


The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

Set in Toronto in the sixties, this book is about two lonely girls living in homes that attach to one another.  Polly has a huge family with foster siblings too.  She feels ignored by all of them, though she can’t get away from her twin brothers and their noise.  That’s how she finds her way into the attic as a safe place away from the bustle of her family.  Polly has always wanted to meet a ghost, which is why she thinks that Rose is a ghost the first time she hears her singing in her neighboring attic.  But Rose turns out to be a real girl, who just happens to look very ghostlike too.  Rose has always been able to see ghosts, and she hates it since they never leave her alone.  Rose spends a lot of her days alone, no one at school talks to her, her parents are very busy business people, and the housekeeper ignores her.  So the two girls quickly form a close friendship, made even closer by the frightening ghost that looks just like Rose and who threatens Polly’s life.  Can the two girls figure out who this ghost is and what she wants?

I seem to be on a roll with Canadian children’s book authors lately, and this is another wonderful Canadian read.  Cotter creates a mystery inside a ghost story that twists and turns delightfully along the way.  Readers will think they have it all figured out and then the story will change.  Yet somehow Cotter makes it all work and in the end the entire novel makes great sense, enough that readers will want to start again to see the clues they may have missed.

The writing here is exceptional.  Cotter writes with a confident voice, one that allows each of these girls to be entire unique.  The two of them are quite different from one another, each clearly resulting from their very divergent upbringings.  The friendship also reads as real with small arguments happening regularly and the two girls having to repair these small issues.  Through the entire book there is a wonderful ghostly presence, a feeling of being in a real place but one unseen by others.  It’s a place that is a delight to visit.

Perfect for reading under the covers with a flashlight, this strong ghost story is both entertaining and riveting.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

graveyard book

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell

The first volume in a two volume graphic version of the award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman, this book celebrates the original story as well as several top graphic artists, who each take a chapter in the tale.  True to the written story, this graphic version has a wonderful creepy vibe and does not shy away from the horror elements.  The story is brought vividly to life by this new format and also brings it to new readers who may not have read the written work.

Thanks to the signature illustration style of each of the artists, the book takes different views of the graveyard, the characters and the story.  With each change in artist, there is a sense of refreshment and wonder anew.  At the same time, the illustrators adhere to certain elements, so that Bod looks like the same character throughout the book as do other main characters.  The various ghosts glow on the page, Silas is a gaunt dark figure who commands attention, and Bod himself is a luminous child that is the center of the story both visually and thematically.

Beautifully and powerfully illustrated, this new version of the book is a masterpiece.  Readers will wait eagerly for Volume Two.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

ghosts of tupelo landing

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

Return to the world of the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky in this follow-up novel.  Mo and Dale continue to run their Desperado Detective Agency but the mysteries have gotten smaller.  Then an old inn goes up for sale and Miss Lana, Mo’s guardian, accidentally purchases it.  That’s when it is discovered that that inn comes with a resident ghost.  Now it is up to Dale and Mo to figure out why the ghost is haunting the inn, something they also manage to make into a homework assignment to do double duty.  But the mystery of the ghost is tied up in other secrets in Tupelo Landing, secrets that have been kept for decades but that must be revealed to solve this mystery.

Returning to Tupelo Landing was immediately like being reunited with friends.  There was catching up to do, but it was easy and warm right from the beginning.  Turnage’s writing is rich and layered.  She excels at descriptions, creating analogies that are surprising and constantly original.  Here in Mo’s voice is a description of Lavender, the boy she plans to marry eventually:

Lavender has eyes blue as October’s sky and hair like just-mown wheat.  He’s wiry and tall, and flows like a lullaby.

All of your favorite characters from the first book are back again.  There are the Colonel and Miss Lana, continuing to figure out their relationship while running a restaurants whose theme changes every night.  There is Grandmother Miss Lacy whose funding saves Miss Lana and the inn, but who may be dealing with secrets of her own.  There is even the scary Red Baker who may be closer to the ghost than anyone else.  There is even one complex new character who takes time to learn about because his secrets are held very close.  And then of course there are Mo and Dale, the two detectives at the heart of the story and who give the story its heart.

Funny, heartfelt and memorable, this sequel is just as good as the award-winning original.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin Group.


Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff

Jayna’s older brother Rob rescued her from foster care but now he is called to duty on a destroyer during World War II.  Both brother and sister love to cook: Jayna’s specialty is soup.  The two don’t have any other family in the world, so Rob leaves Jayna with their landlady who is always lecturing Jayna about manners.  Right before he leaves, Rob tells Jayna about a recipe book he found that may have belonged to their grandmother.  It contains an address for a bakery in Brooklyn.  When Rob is listed as missing in action, Jayna decides to travel to Brooklyn to discover if her grandmother still has a bakery there.  She takes her pet turtle with her and also a ghost who has been helping lead her in the right direction.  But what will she find when she gets to Brooklyn?

Giff has created a very pleasant mix of historical fiction and ghost story in this novel.  At the center is a young girl and her wish for a family, which propels the action in the story.  I appreciated that while the ending is satisfying it is not the perfect vision that young Jayna had been searching for.  Some may say though that it’s even better.  The ghost is not frightening at all, instead she borrows nail polish and even clothing.  She offers opinions on what is happening, most of which are helpful and get Jayna to make decisions more quickly.

It is the historical piece that is very special here.  I appreciated a young girl who could not just cook but excelled at it.  The food shortage is vital to the story as is the war itself.  Later in the book, readers also get to hear about the first World War and its impact.  This is a book about the homefront, made more dynamic by one untidy little ghost.

A treat for readers, this book should be embraced by teachers looking for fiction about World War II.  The setting is strong, the characters memorable and the food enticing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

greyhound of a girl

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

Four generations of a Dublin family come together in this ghost story.  Mary is a modern Dublin pre-teen who finds herself moving away from her childhood rituals but also wanting to cling to them too.  One day on her way home from school, she meets Tansey, a woman who wants her to give a message to her grandmother.  Mary forgets, distracted by visiting her grandmother in the hospital with her mother.  So it isn’t until later that she mentions the woman to her mother, who pales at being told the name, Tansey, because that was her own grandmother’s name.  Soon Mary is having her mother meet Tansey and her relationship is revealed as is her status as a ghost.  The three of them conspire to get Tansey and her daughter together again, even though Tansey can’t survive the harsh lighting of the hospital.  The result is a road trip filled with hellos, memories, family stories, and goodbyes.  Richly layered, this slim volume holds a grand tale.

Doyle plays with the format of a ghost story here, at first starting with a little shiver and danger and then turning the story into that of a family that has dealt with an early death for generations.  It is a story of maternal love and the connections of women in a maternal line.  It is also the story of loss, death and above all, life.  Doyle creates fascinating characters, particularly in the two older women, Tansey and Emer.  Their stories have a pastoral beauty, a vivid warmth, and yet are damaged by death.  It is poignant, lovely and tragic.

The story is character driven and told in a slow, transformational way.  It takes its time, filled with small moments of lives, hands wrapped around tea cups, children on laps, slow steps up stairs for the last time.  Yet it is not a slow story, it is engaging, rich and builds a mood that is inescapable and memorable.

I loved this little book and the world that it created that seemed just for me.  Doyle’s writing is confident and beautiful, meticulously crafted.  This is a ghost story but so much more as well.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.

New Halloween Books

Here are some newly released Halloween books that are sure to mix shivers and giggles:

skeleton meets the mummy

Skeleton Meets the Mummy by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Aaron Zenz

Sammy is looking forward to trick-or-treating with his best friend on Halloween night.  His mother catches him before he can leave and asks him to run some soup to his grandmother.  To get there, he has to head through the woods.  He gets scared along the way by a bat, the wind, and even a tree that looks like a monster.  So he’s already jumpy when he hears the footsteps behind him and sees the mummy chasing him!

Told in straight-forward prose, the illustrations are a large part of the appeal here.  They are crisp, clean and vivid.  The characters glow against the dark Halloween backgrounds.  This is a story with a funny twist, plenty of appeal and even a couple of bumps in the dark.

sleepless little vampire

The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski

Little Vampire can’t figure out why he is having trouble falling asleep.  It could be the spitting spider.  It could be the flitting bats.  Maybe the cockroaches crawling on the floor?  Or the werewolf howling?  More and more Halloween characters enter the story and create their own noises:  a witch, skeletons, ghosts.  But none of them are the reason he can’t sleep.  Nope, it was just that he was trying too sleep too early.  It wasn’t morning yet!

Egielski bridges the pages brilliantly, moving from one possible cause of being unable to sleep to another.  The final reason will surprise most readers, though as they see the sky lighten they will be able to guess the ending on the final page.  The illustrations get increasingly busy as more characters enter.  The detail makes this a better pick to use one-on-one or with a small group of children. 


Frangoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott

Frangoline was a perfect child, neat and clean.  Until the deep of night, when she put on her black cape and escaped the house.  The moon tried to warn her about being in bed, but Frangoline replied, “I’ll do exactly as I please!  I’m Frangoline!”  She climbed down the tree outside her window, ran across the lawn, blew raspberries.  She woke the forest animals but then yelled so loud that she scared them all away rather than them ever scaring her.  She danced and pranced in the graveyard and woke up the ghouls.  When they chased her up the church steeple, she finally got worried.  But where can she go if she’s cornered up there? 

There is a wild delight in this book and in the naughtiness of a little girl having such fun alone in the middle of the night.  The moon plays a big role in the book, warning her of the dangers but also being a sort of parental figure on each page.  The story is silly, clever and has the dark night creepiness along with the ghouls.  But nothing is drawn in a particularly scary way, instead it stays inviting with a strong sense of fun.

All three books are appropriate for ages 4-6. 

All were provided for review by Scholastic.

anyas ghost

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

This debut graphic novel tells the story of Anya, a first generation American who has worked hard to fit in at school by losing her Russian accent and blending in with the other students.  But she can’t quite manage to be normal.  Falling down a well doesn’t help, and discovering a ghost in the bottom of the well isn’t a good start either.  But as she befriends the ghost, her life starts to become easier.  She gets help with tests, manages to connect with a cute boy she has been watching from afar, and gets clothing and makeup tips too.  Everything seems to be looking up, until Anya begins to figure out what is truly happening.

Told in black-white-and-gray illustrations, this graphic novel has a deep appeal.  Anya is a girl that readers will immediately relate to.  She has insecurities about her body, her school, and herself.  The strength of the novel comes in her character which rings very true and is written with a solid humanity.  The inclusion of the ghost lends a more fantasy tone to the book, offering an appealing foil to this very real protagonist.

The illustrations are clear and often very funny.  Emotions come through nicely and characters are depicted in ways that expand their character beyond the words on the page.  Anya is shown as a normal girl with curves, which makes her very relatable.  It doesn’t hurt that she is also sarcastic.

The storyline is strong, developing into a scary story that is hauntingly appealing.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Picture the Dead

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

After his death, Jennie had always felt the spirit of her twin brother near her.  Now her fiancé Will has died in the Civil War.  His brother, Quinn, has returned with injuries.  According to the army, Will died honorably in battle, but his brother tells a different story of prison and Will being a criminal.  Jennie seeks out the help of a spiritualist photographer, who takes the family’s picture and edits it by adding another image of an angle.  Jennie is not fooled, but soon she experiences things that she cannot explain.  Images of her are edited without anyone touching them, clues lead her deeper into a mystery, and time is running out as her place in Will’s family is threatened.  This paranormal, spiritualist mystery will have readers enthralled.

This book is so beautifully designed.  Lisa Brown’s illustrations take the book to another level, ensuring that readers are completely surrounded by Jennie’s world.  Jennie keeps a scrapbook and often takes small items to add to her book without the owners knowing.  As she adds these bits and pieces to her scrapbook, a series of visual clues start to emerge.  At the start of each chapter, readers will see items that will be added to the scrapbook in the next chapter.  This way each chapter starts with the clues and continues with the story itself.  This is an immensely entertaining way to read a book.

Griffin has created a book that lingers, slowly revealing its secrets.  The book is beautifully written.  Griffin has intertwined Jennie’s brother’s voice in the chapters, his advice for spies always right at hand when courage is needed.  Jennie is an intriguing protagonist who is multidimensional with her small thefts, desperation for a home, and ability to love two brothers.  It is her complexity that makes the book so fascinating.

Eerie, haunting and mysterious, this book is one that takes over your world.  Bright summer sun dims into streets at night, heat becomes a chill, breezes blow on still days.  Griffin and Brown have created a book that is an immersive experience that readers will not soon forget.

Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Sourcebooks.

Check out other reviews at Bookalicious, Good Books & Wine, BookLust, Through the Looking Glass, Cindy’s Love of Books, and Poisoned Rationality.

Hush, Baby Ghostling

Hush, Baby Ghostling by Andrea Beatty, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre.

It’s morning, so it’s time for Baby Ghostling to head to bed in their castle tower.  Mother ghost tucks him in and urges him to think about monsters, owls, bats, and more.  She leaves the darkness on in the hall, because he is scared of the light.  And finally, she reassures him that the blonde boy he sees in his dreams is not there because “childlings” are make-believe. 

This is a clever twist on the bedtime story.  I especially like the part about leaving the darkness on in the hall.  Beatty’s text is rhyming and has a nice lilting rhythm.  It is a lullaby of a book where the rhymes work well.  Lemaitre’s illustrations nicely combine a softness of background and light with characters drawn in thick lines.  The parts about the different monsters, bats and owls are illustrated with a variety of beasts, but they appear playing in playgrounds, blowing bubbles, and doing other silly, everyday things.

This is perfect for a Halloween story time with smaller children because it isn’t scary at all.  In fact, children will enjoy being seen as the frightening ones.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by Anastasia Suen.


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