William Alexander’s latest book is short, spooky and delicious, with a strong core.
A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017.
Rosa Díaz is the daughter of the world’s best ghost appeasement specialist. Everywhere has ghosts, of course – especially libraries, which tend to be full of the ghosts of past readers. That’s why it makes no sense that they’ve moved to the tiny town of Ingot, which is famous two things: its Renaissance Faire, and for having no ghosts at all. Even her mother’s grief over losing Rosa’s father shouldn’t be reason enough for her to move to such a place.
Rosa knows something isn’t right. Then, when Jasper Chevalier, son of the Ren Faire Queen and its Black Knight (who will explain to anyone that there were Moors in Europe in the Middle Ages), takes her on a tour of it, they are attacked by an angry monster, part ghost but very physical. And when Rosa’s mother is incapacitated, Rosa and Jasper are on their own.
I have enjoyed each of William Alexander’s books that I have read (you might recall Ambassador and Nomad popping up on many past lists of favorites, but Goblin Secrets are , and this is no exception. I loved gutsy Rosa and cautious but determined Jasper. I enjoyed the descriptive language – here’s the librarian, who sadly never makes Rosa feel welcome:
“Her voice tasted like honey dribbled over raw rhubarb.”
While in general, I am tired of dead parents and siblings in middle grade books, it made sense in a book about ghosts. I appreciated that while his loss is part of the story, the book wasn’t overwhelmed by grief. The heart of the book is more about making peace with the past in general. Also, I appreciate that its short length. I’m always on the lookout for books that would be unintimidating for those with reading disabilities like dyslexia, and this book fits the bill – it’s fast-moving and illustrated, even. I could see it working well as an October classroom read-aloud for about fourth grade and up, too – short, exciting, but not too scary for all but the most sensitive of readers.
This book has been nominated for a Cybils award. These opinions are my own, and do not reflect that of the committee.