Friday, September 12, 2014

The Haunted Library

Haunted libraries sound very cool, don't they?  When I was asked to be part of a blog tour for this series, I was very excited about it.  I worked in several libraries in my career, and I was often in those libraries after closing.  It was always a little creepy, but in a sort of exciting way.  I wondered whether I might catch a glimpse of a ghost.  Sadly, I never did.  But with the Haunted Library series by Dori Hillestad Butler, readers can explore a haunted library in a safe, fun way.  Frances and Gloria haven't been able to keep their hands off this easy chapter book series since they arrived!

Interestingly enough, this series doesn't actually begin in a library.  Kaz, the nine year old ghost who is the focus of this series, is haunting a school with his family.  There are a few problems, though.  Kaz doesn't like to do some of the things that most ghosts do automatically.  He hates trying to pass through walls (it made him feel skizzy, or sick, the only time he tried), he can't glow or wail (which is the way ghosts allow people to see or hear them).  And he is desperately afraid of the Outside, where you can't control where the wind takes you.  His brother and grandparents had been sucked into the Outside and were now lost to them.

So without basic ghost skills, Kaz is really in trouble when the schoolhouse is demolished and the wind sucks him Outside.  Even worse, he is sucked in a different direction than the rest of his family.  He's left alone.  But then he blows into the window of a house, and it turns out to be the library of the title.  Kaz soon meets up with Claire, a young girl who lives upstairs from the library (how cool is that?).  Her grandma Karen is the librarian, and her parents run a detective agency.  And to Kaz's surprise, the library is already haunted.  An even bigger surprise - Claire can see Kaz!

I want to not do too much summarizing of the plots of the stories, although I'll have to describe some points as I review.  I read both The Haunted Library, which begins the series, and The Ghost in the Attic, which is Book Two.  Book Three (The Ghost Backstage) will be available in November.  These books are each about 125 pages, with lots of illustrations throughout.  They are perfect easy chapter books for 2nd through 4th graders.  They look interesting and accessible and will be great additions to any collections.

Part of what I like about these books so much is Kaz himself.  Yes, he's a ghost, but first and foremost, he is a young boy.  There is no mention of what happened to cause Kaz and his family to become ghosts - they are really like any other family.  There are just a few other restrictions.  And once Kaz is separated from his family, you see that he longs for them, just like any other 9 year old would.  And I think that is very comforting in an odd way.  Even though he's a ghost, Kaz actually behaves like many children would in the same situation.  There is nothing scary about Kaz at all, and he is very relatable.  So it's a fun way for young readers to explore ghosts without being scared.

Another thing I like about this series so far is that the "hauntings" are very explainable, which I think makes them more understandable to young readers.  My interactions with elementary school readers is that it is primarily older grade students who enjoy reading something that is scary and has no explanation.  New readers want there to be an explanation that makes sense in the end.  And both of these hauntings are explained in enough detail to satisfy them.

Kaz and Claire decide to form their own ghost detective agency, because Claire's parents won't let her participate in theirs.  Claire can see Kaz, but no other human (Kaz calls them solids) can.  So Kaz can go along with Claire on cases.  But the two immediately run into a problem - we've already seen that Kaz doesn't like to go Outside.  So Kaz and Claire problem solve - Claire ends up carrying Kaz around in a plastic water bottle.  It's a perfect situation which allows Kaz to explore his surroundings without risking being blown away.  Kaz is particularly taken with cell phones!  I love how Claire and Kaz work together as a team - it's a great friendship.

The illustrations are perfect for this series.  They are slightly cartoonish without being silly.  Claire, Kaz, and all the other characters look animated and full of personality.  The illustrations vary in size, too, which keeps readers moving through the text at a rapid pace.  It keeps chapters or even blocks of text from feeling too long or cumbersome for a reader who is just tackling their first real chapter books.

There is much more I could say about these books, but I will save it for my next review.  I am definitely going to request Book #3 for review.  I'll also report back on what Frances and Gloria think about these books.

Thanks again to Dori Hillestad Butler for appearing.  For other stops on the Haunted Library Blog Tour please check

The Haunted Library.  Dori Hillestad Butler.  Grosset & Dunlap, 2014.
The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic.  Dori Hillestad Butler.  Grosset & Dunlap, 2014.

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