This middle-grade fantasy thriller stars two orphans, Marybeth and Lionel, and depicts their trouble with a powerful and determined ghost.
“Lionel was a wild boy. Sometimes he forgot he was a boy at all.” On the other hand, “Marybeth was a very normal girl, with dark hair that she wore braided into pigtails, and round spectacles with red metal rims.” Despite their differences, the two white 9-year-olds are firm friends. They escape from the six older, mean orphans in the little red house presided over by the stuffy Mrs. Mannerd by going into the woods nearby, where Lionel sees a blue something that he thinks is a fox. Later, Marybeth sees the mysterious blue light—and is possessed by it. Increasingly frightening events ensue, as they try to discover what the ghost (for that’s what it is) wants Marybeth to do. Precise details and humor at the outset will engage readers’ attention, while tension and suspense will keep those pages turning once they are hooked. The depictions of the children and their guardian as well as of the house and landscape bind the realistic elements of the story together while providing an anchor for the fantasy.
The lovable characters, the mystery of the ghost, and the deep friendship between the two children will lead middle graders back to the author’s A Curious Tale of the In-between (2015) and have them counting the days until her next book. (Fantasy. 9-11)