Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (9780062430083, Amazon)
Harper and her family have moved to Washington DC after she was injured during her stay at a hospital. Harper has no memory of how her injuries happened, but they may be the key to understanding the family’s new house. Harper’s little brother has been acting strangely since they moved in, speaking to an imaginary friend and then becoming almost another person. As Harper makes a new friend in the neighborhood, the two of them start researching what happened in the house in the past and discovering that the threatening presence that Harper feels in the house may be a ghost! In fact, Harper may be one of the special people who can sense ghosts in the world, but she has to figure out how to do so safely and who to trust with her secret.
Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books. She has crafted here a middle grade novel that has Korean-American main characters and uses their culture skillfully as an important part of the story and the solution to their haunting issues. She has also created a book that is pure scary fun. This is not a serious book about diversity and modern society, but instead a romp of delightful scares that make the book real fun to read.
The lightness of the book will have young readers loving it. Oh allows the young protagonist and her siblings and friends to be the real heroes of the book, even as the dangers they face grow in size. The pace of the book is key to its success as well, as Oh allows it to pick up pace towards the ending, controlling it just enough but also allowing it to get wild and zany.
A great pick for fans of Ghostbusters or scary stories, I look forward to more adventures with these characters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long (9781338054354, Amazon)
This is the second picture book in the Super Happy Magic Forest series. This book has the same tongue-in-cheek humor as the first as it once again laughs at fantasy tropes. In this second book, our heroes (the same ones as in the first book: a unicorn, gnome, centaur, fairy and mushroom) must face a new danger. Zorgoth, an evil slug who has been trapped under a rock (and accidentally released by one of our heroes), heads out to destroy the forest by drinking the Potion of Power. Our heroes must journey through different fantasy landscapes and eventually defeat Zorgoth, who is munching his way across them leaving a trail of slime. How can our hapless heroes succeed?
Long’s writing is over the top and great fun. He frames the book with a Prophecy at the beginning that predicts Zorgoth’s emergence and ends it with what has become the Legend of the heroes, which doesn’t quite match what the reader just saw happen. Throughout the book, there is humor sprinkled everywhere. Speech bubbles and labels add to the fun, mixing modern-day with fantasy world in a gloriously haphazard way.
The illustrations are bright and colorful. Entire worlds of fantasy are depicted in double-page spreads that contrast with one another. There is a dragon world of fire (filled with fire puns), underground chambers of jewels where readers can try to find the missing rainbow jewel, and ogres doing yoga and trying to eat our heroes too.
This is another wild and very successful romp through fantasy in a picture book. Share it with individual kids or very small groups so that the pictures can be searched for small details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.