Collige virgo rosas is Latin for “gather, girl, the roses”—a favorite line of the dramatic and vivacious Cassandra Queen in Kyrie McCauley’s book We Can Be Heroes. But Cassie, who was a poet, a writer of music, and a budding actress, is now incorporeal—having been shot to death by her possessive and entitled boyfriend, Nico Bell. Seeking closure, Ghost Cassie returns to the town of Bell to take care of some unfinished business. Rather than accept a world where “it’s normal to lose someone you love to a bullet at school” (316), she wants the world to “read stories where girls are the heroes andRead More →

Just in time for Halloween 2021, Lucy Strange’s new middle grade novel, The Ghost of Midnight Lake, tells the story of twelve-year-old Agatha Rose Walters who thought she was an Asquith. The mystery of Agatha’s parentage, the presence of a Ghost Girl, and the lost Queen’s Stone—a legendary white opal—add intrigue to Strange’s story. Set in England’s Lake District in 1899, Lady Agatha loses her father. With his death, everything changes at once. Her cousin Clarence, the new Earl of Gosswater evicts her from the only home she has ever known and tells her that she is a nobody since her father is really ThomasRead More →

Justina Ireland explores the notion of unfairness in her novel for middle grade readers, Ophie’s Ghosts.  Readers will accompany Ireland on this justice-seeking journey as she asks important questions: How do we live, survive, and thrive in a system that is unjust? How do we remain strong and unbent, willing to do the right thing, even when it puts our own comfort and lives at risk? What are we willing to put on the line in the name of justice that is denied to us? How do we grieve when the ghosts of our loss appear in the everyday suffering of those around us? AsRead More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

With Cinders & Sparrows, Stefan Bachmann has written a gothic novel for middle grade readers. Given the genre, his book incorporates ghosts, spirits, hauntings, misty woods, gloomy environs, enchanted chambers and staircases, talking trees and a marble bust who claims to be a prince. The novel’s plot revolves around twelve-year-old Zita Brydgeborn and her discovery that she is not an orphan after all but a member of the Brydgeborn family of witches and the heiress to Blackbird Castle. With Mrs. Cantanker as her teacher, Zita receives all sorts of training—some of it oddly questionable. Still, according to Mrs. Cantanker, “A true Blackbird is graced withRead More →

Like nightmares, scary stories are a sort of dress rehearsal for real-life fear, helping children learn to cope with the emotion in a low-stakes setting.  After all, the world can be a scary place where children will encounter frightful situations—such as getting lost, losing friends, being less loved than a sibling, or experiencing abandonment as a result of parental death or divorce.  Therefore, knowing how to confront fear can benefit children and help them cope with difficulty. Scary stories like Dan Poblocki’s Ghost Hunter’s Daughter, targeted for middle grade readers in the eight to twelve year old age group, not only help children forge resilience but give them a senseRead More →

Creative narration, as it colors perspective, can add to a book’s appeal.  Just as Death narrates Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief, which offers a perspective on the Jewish holocaust, and God narrates Alan Lightman’s Mr. g, a hypothesis about the universe’s creation, the ghost of Jacob Grimm narrates Tom McNeal’s new book, Far Far Away. Although the story doesn’t begin “once upon a time” or “in a land far, far away,” McNeal’s recent release is a fairy tale. Set in the parochial village, Never Better, Far Far Away features heroes and heroines, villains and ogres, horrors and cruelties, as well as lessons for and truthsRead More →