THE GHOST BELONGED TO ME

From the Blossom Culp series , Vol. 1

"There are several opinions that people hold regarding ghosts, and not one of them would clinch an argument." So Richard Peck, betraying a twinge of embarrassment, sort of backs in to the ghost story genre. But once under way he has a great time, calling up a classic spook, little Inez Dumaine who wanders about the Armsworth barn leaving wet footprints, casting a bright pink aura, and muttering cryptic phrases like "my hoops, my hoops." Inez also warns young Alexander Armsworth of an impending trolley disaster, and the advance information makes Alexander a hero and the Armsworth ghost a cause celebre overnight. The ensuing mayhem is awkward for Alexander's social climbing mother and sister Lucille, and a delight to the plucky spider-legged girl next door, Blossom Culp, who finds her faith in THE UNSEEN vindicated and at the same time makes money sneaking newspaper reporters into the barn. But it takes eccentric Uncle Miles to set things right; he alone knows the true story of Inez's watery fate, and takes Inez's recovered bones back to New Orleans for burial, lodging them (along with Alexander and Blossom) with a very discreetly disguised madam. This haunting is slapstick most of the way, and anyone who worries about the tender feelings of Inez (or for that matter poor sister Lucille) might find it all impossibly silly. But Peck throws in enough scary moments to prove that he'd be a winner in any campfire storytelling session, and in that spirit he will keep his audience giggling and just a little frightened at the same time.

Pub Date: April 28, 1975

ISBN: 0140386718

Page Count: 101

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1975

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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