Henry, the new boy in Barbara Anne Klein’s Seattle fifth-grade class, dresses oddly, but that isn’t the strangest thing about him.
Henry and narrator Barbara Anne (or Bitsy as her parents and grandmother call her) bond over their need to escape their assigned lunch table, and Barbara Anne soon discovers the subject of Henry’s absorbed sketching at recess: the boy who seems to be haunting him. Irrepressible, strong-minded Barbara Anne is not always aware of her limitations, and Siebel’s voice for her is both funny and warm. Henry battles a respiratory infection throughout much of the story even as he and Barbara Anne begin to realize that young Edgar, Henry’s ghost, did not survive the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918. A session with a Ouija board and a letter and yearbook discovered in Henry’s attic tell part of the story. Edgar’s father’s journal, found in the public library archives, reveals the rest. Siebel cleverly weaves together the story of the developing friendships among Barbara Anne and her classmates and the story of Edgar’s friendship with Henry’s neighbor, Edgar’s playmate as a small child and now a very old woman. Henry, Barbara Anne, and Edgar present white; classmate Renee Garcia, who looks forward to eventually celebrating her quinceañera, and Barbara Anne’s teacher, Miss Biniam (“she looks like an Ethiopian princess”) are the only main characters of color.
Convincing, humorous, warm, and definitely spooky. (Ghost story. 9-12)