DIAL-A-GHOST

If R.L. Stine, Charles Dickens, and Lemony Snicket gave a writers’ workshop, any resulting fiction might not be a literary masterpiece, but it would have deliciously wicked currency with young readers. Such is this latest from Ibbotson (Island of the Aunts, 2000, etc.), with plot intersections, melodramatic misfortunes, and macabre special effects. At the center of the main plot twist is an agency called Dial-a-Ghost, which is run by two well-meaning social-worker types. It seeks to match ghosts with positions where ghosts are needed—and wanted. The Wilkinsons, an endearing family of ghosts killed during a WWII bombing, are seeking a more appropriate home in which to raise a family than the lingerie shop in the mall. Meanwhile, Sir and Lady de Bone (a.k.a. the Shriekers), Victorian ghosts who have taken a vow to do appalling harm to innocent children, are hired by a pair of murderous guardians for the sole purpose of literally scaring to death a vulnerable little orphan-heir named (of all things) Oliver. The two placements are switched by an inept Dial-a-Ghost office boy with hilarious and dramatic consequences. The Shriekers wind up in the convent home intended for the gentle Wilkinsons, who themselves settle in with Oliver. He is immediately comforted by their kindly presence. The atmospherics are enhanced by Ibbotson’s unerring ability to interpret the extraordinary in the most deadpan and literal way, such as the business strategies employed by Dial-a-Ghost. The ghosts themselves are a satisfyingly eccentric bunch: Grandma’s “whiskers on her chin stuck out like daggers in the moonlight,” and Lady Sabrina de Bone, whose toes were worn away by hatred and her “nose nothing but a nibbled stump.” While much of this territory may seem familiar, it is never old to young readers who like their humor laced with blood-curdling screams, and just can’t get enough. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46693-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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