Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost by Sally Murphy

‘You stay safe,’ my friend Lucy instructs me. and have a wonderful Christmas. I’ll miss you!’
‘I’ll miss you too!’ I say. Have the best Christmas ever.’
Lucy climbs into her dad’s waiting car, clutching the Christmas present I’ve given her.
‘And no pressie-poking!’ I call.
‘Same to you,’ she says, grinning as I hold up the gift that she has given me. ‘Bye Sage!’

It’s Christmas time and Sage and her TV chef family are flying to Western Australia to film a world record attempt at making the largest ever pavlova. The film crew are already there, now it’s time for Mum, Dad and Sage to meet Myra, who will be making the pavlova record-attempt at an old brickwork factory. There are rumours of a ghost at the brickworks, and when things start to go wrong, Sage begins to wonder if the rumours might be true. There’s nothing Sage likes more than a mystery. Since everyone else is busy, she’ll just have to investigate by herself.

Sage has an exciting life accompanying her parents and their crew around Australia. This year has been particularly exciting with several dramatic episodes. Her parents are busy setting up the event and Sage has time to notice things that others may not. Her sleuthing always ends well, though there are often some tense moments. She doesn’t always get things right but she keeps trying. Sage’s adventures are always exciting as she visits different regions of Australia. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594058

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Turnkey, by Allison Rushby

There was a man standing in the alcove that led out onto the Golden Gallery’s walkway. His attention was fixed on the explosion, which meant he hadn’t seen her yet. At first she thought he was a fire watcher, stationed up the top of St Paul’s to protect it from burning. But, no, this man was a twilight visitor – a man of the dead, not the living – she could tell by his ashen hue. Everything was a muted shade in her world; it was how you could tell the living world from the the world of the dead.

It is 1940 and Flossie Birdwhistle is the turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery, charged with keeping the souls that rest there at peace. When London is subject to enemy bombardment every night, this is an even more difficult task than usual. During one raid, when Flossie sets out to fulfill the request of one of her charges, she sees something surprising: a German soldier, who, though as dead as she is, seems to have abilities and interests from the other side of the grave. It is up to Flossie, and her friends, the turnkeys of London’s other cemeteries, to figure what he is up to, and how to stop him.

The Turnkey is an intriguing novel set in the midst of the second world war, populated with ghostly characters, as well as a handful of those still living. the concept of the dead being looked after by one of their own, and of them still carng for the world beyond the grave is appealing, and history lovers will enjoy seeing World War Two London and Germany from a very different angle.

Great stuff.

The Turnkey, by Allison Rushby
Walker Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925126921

Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths by Craig Cormick

When the Goth pirates attacked his father’s ship, Valdur was hiding in a barrel of pickles with his pet dragon, Ragna. He heard his father cry out, ‘By Odin’s hairy toes, it’s the Goths!’ Then there was the sound of lots of fighting. And, right next to him, there was also the sound of the last pickle being eaten.

Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths  - Craig CormickWhen the Goth pirates attacked his father’s ship, Valdur was hiding in a barrel of pickles with his pet dragon, Ragna. He heard his father cry out, ‘By Odin’s hairy toes, it’s the Goths!’ Then there was the sound of lots of fighting. And, right next to him, there was also the sound of the last pickle being eaten.

Valdur and the few remaining ghost Vikings are on a mission to save his father and the rest of the crew after they are kidnapped by his deadly enemy Germanicus Bottom and his shipload of ghostly Goths. To help Valdur, there’s a lookout called Ivar Lostoffen, a cook called Reiner Rankbreath who looks like a cow, his apprentice Hilda, and Gunnar Shortas, the midget cabin boy. And of course Ragna, Valdur’s dog (who just might be a dragon). There is adventure to be had, danger to be overcome, bargains to resist and real non-ghost ships to avoid if they are to have a chance of effecting a rescue. Each chapter includes ghostly illustrations by Hanna Cormick.

‘Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths’ is a comically spooky Viking, Gothic adventure for young independent readers. Valdur doesn’t really want to captain his father’s ship – he would rather just be playing with his dog/dragon. But someone has to take charge and it has to be him. He blunders and bluffs his way along, with and despite the assistance of his incapable crew, overcoming piracy attempts and almost-detections by living humans and their ships. Embedded in the humour and the adventure are titbits about Goths and Vikings and life at sea. Recommended for newly independent readers in junior- mid primary years.

Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths, Craig Cormick
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272420

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Springtime, by Michelle De Krester

Picking up her pace, Frances saw a woman in the shadowy depths of the garden. She wore a wide hat and a trailing pink dress; a white hand emerged from her sleeve. There came upon Frances a sensation that sometimes overtook her when she was looking at a painting: space was foreshortened, time stilled.

Frances and her partner Charlie have recently moved to Sydney. As she battles a sense of displacement, Frances finds pleasure in her daily walks with her rescue dog, Rod, who looks fearsome but is terrified of strangers. On a favourite stretch of her walk, Frances starts to glimpse a woman in a long dress, accompanied by a white dog. There is something surreal about what she sees, and she can’t help thinking the figure is ghostly.

Springtime is an intriguing little story – a short novella exploring the supernatural as well as themes of displacement, family and relationships. Billed as a ghost story, and packaged in a charming small hardcover format with a slip case, it is a book that is a delight to hold and to read.

Charming.

 

Springtime: A Ghost Story, by Michelle De Krester
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781760111212

Available from good bookstores and online.

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier

Kelpie didn’t look at the card between her fingers. She could feel it there, but she was staring at the red splashes on the walls, on the mirror of the wardrobe, across the two paintings, at the blood sliding down them in rivulets. her nostrils flared at the smell from the dead man and she wished she could close them.
She did not see or smell apples.

Kelpie has been living on the streets of Surry Hills almost as long as she can remember. Her friends are mostly ghosts – she alone seems to be able to see and hear them – so she’s no stranger to death, but she is still shocked when she stumbles across the scene where Jimmy Palmer has just been slain. Unwittingly, she is now part of a turf war between mob bosses Glory Nelson and Mr Davidson. She also has a new, unexpected friend and protector – Dymphna Campbell – who was Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s best girl. But Dymphna doesn’t know who to trust: she had Jimmy had been plotting to replace both of the mob bosses, and whoever killed Jimmy must have known that. Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, but he’s a bit hysterical over the turn of events. Kelpie’s only living friend, Snowy, also seems to want to help, but Jimmy says it was Snowy who killed him. Could sticking together be the thing that keeps both girls alive?

Set in 1930s Sydney, Razorhurst is historical fiction with a paranormal element, via the ghost characters. Set amidst the backdrop of a period where poverty was high, and gangs focused on prostitution and gambling preferred the razor as a means of enforcement and retribution, the story is fiction, but does draw on the lives of madams Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, and 1930s prostitutes Dulcie Markham and Nellie Cameron as starting points for the intriguing characters of Glory and Dymphna.

Kelpie and Dymphna, who alternate as viewpoint characters, seem initially to be two very different people thrown together by circumstance, but it emerges that they have more in common than either thinks. this makes their relationship both complex and, for the reader, intriguing. The events that they endure, both within the short time frame of the book and in their pasts – which we see through flash backs – are violent and traumatic, yet both girls are strong, albeit in different ways.

Razorhurst is absorbing, frightening, and, at times, amusing. It is also utterly readable.

 

Razorhurst

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743319437

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Ghost at the Point, by Charlotte Calder

If Gah noticed that she was quieter than usual during the meal, he did’t say anything. One thing was for sure, she thought, absently chewing. Half-light or not, roos didn’t wear pants and a shirt, and have big eyes staring out from under a tangled mass of dark curls.
It was a boy she’d seen vanishing around that stringybark. A boy about her own age.

Before she died, Dorrie’s Aunt Gertrude was sure there was a ghost that haunted the family home, but Dorrie didn’t believe her. But then she catches sight of a boy lurking under the stringybarks at night, and then strange things start happening around the house. Her grandfather, Gah, says there is no such thing as ghosts, but now Dorrie isn’t so sure. She is going to get to the bottom of what’s happening, even if she has to catch the ghost herself.

The Ghost at the Point is absorbing historical fiction, set in 1931 on an island on Australia’s south coast. Although seemingly a ghost story in the early chapters, it becomes a blend of mystery and action, as Dorrie and her two new friends are unwittingly drawn into a hunt for treasure.

Dorrie is a brave girl whose times and lifestyle will intrigue young readers. She rides to school, barefoot, on the back of a Clydesdale, and lives in a house with no electricity. Her friend Alonso is shipwrecked on the island and hides in the dunes near her house in a shelter made of corrugated iron. Their friendship is formed in spite of speaking different languages, and they come to rely on each other for survival.

The Ghost at the Point

An action-packed read, suitable for upper primary aged readers.
The Ghost at the Point, by Charlotte Calder
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921977732

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond or from good bookstores.

Ghost Granny, by Melanie Guile

There was no doubt about it – Granny was much nicer dead.
It was a shock of course, losing Granny. Everyone went around looking a bit dazed for a day or two afterwards. But she was eighty-four – ‘a good innings’ as Uncle Jim remarked – and they’d always said she had a weak heart. And to go the way she did – falling down like a skittle on the back path while she was booting the cat out of her petunias – well, you couldn’t want a fairer finish than that.

Granny has been making everyone’s life a misery for years. Only Anna, Granny’s youngest grandchild, has anything nice to say for her when she dies. And only Anna is pleased when Granny re-appears as a ghost. However, Granny doesn’t seem to understand that she’s a ghost and the scene is set for all sorts of accidental fun. Not only has ‘41’ (apprentice angel) forgotten to keep an eye on her, it seems there’s a bit of a problem about whether Granny is destined to head to the heavens or through Hell’s Gate. Enter Mr Brimstone and the race for Granny’s soul is on! Granny stumbles through the afterlife, largely unaware of the growing chaos caused by her uncertain status.

Ghost Granny is a humorous look at life after death, particularly the struggle for a soul when earthly good deeds are balanced by not-so-good offerings. Melanie’s Guile’s tongue is firmly in her cheek as she introduces the reader to the random appearances of a neither-here-or-gone granny, angel education classes and embittered souls in the endless abyss of Hell. Ghost Granny is both funny and a fast-moving adventure, full of puns and good-versus-evil struggles. Ghost Granny takes an omniscient point of view, letting the reader move closer to all the main characters. Rather than one main character, several characters take turns at driving the action, until the end when all major players are present. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Ghost Granny, by Melanie Guile
Lothian Children’s Books 2007
ISBN: 9780734410085

Elysium, by Catherine Jinks

As I approached the corner I began to slow down. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I had this image in my head: an image of a face materialising out of the darkness on the other side of the window. I didn’t want to turn the corner. I didn’t want to see anything like that.

The Exorcists’ club have been invited to attend a weekend ghost tour at the Jenolan Caves. Only Allie and Michelle can make it, but they are determined to have a good weekend, intrigued by the idea of the hotel being haunted, and mysterious figures lurking in the caves.

But Allie’s plans for the weekend don’t include trying to sort out the arguments between her parents and their new partners, or avoiding the horrible Paul, a fifteen year old with an attitude problem. And what if the ghost encounter is with a dreamtime creature that emits the foulest smell ever?

Elysium is the fourth title in the Allie’s Ghost Hunters series by the popular Catherine Jinks. The ghost mystery takes perhaps a lesser role than earlier titles in the series, but there are plenty of eerie moments and lots of action, and readers aged 10 to 12 will enjoy both.

Elysium: A Paranormal Adventure

Elysium, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2007

Haunted Australia, by John Heffernan

Ghosts, spirits, spectres, spooks, apparitions, ghouls, banshees, min mins, Quinkans, feather-foots, poltergeists and doppelgangers. They come with a host of different names. But if you ever actually meet one, what you call it will be the last thing on your mind.

In Haunted Australia, John Heffernan takes young readers on a tour of the haunts and the haunters of Australia. From seemingly normal suburban homes which house macabre ghouls, to historic buildings with their own resident spooks, friendly or fiery, Heffernan explores a huge variety of hauntings, apparitions and experiences.

Young readers will be fascinated of tales of the ghosts who haunt everything from moving vans to prisons, in every corner of Australia. Heffernan uses first person accounts, short snippets, postcards and more to explore the mysterious ‘other’ side to Australia.

Sure to appeal to upper primary aged readers.

Haunted Australia, by John Heffernan
Scholastic, 2005

Ghost Boy, by Felicity Pulman

‘I say, wake up!’ He felt a touch, light as a feather against his face. Alarmed, he opened his eyes and jerked up, fists clenched to protect himself.
He was staring at himself.
Froggy blinked and stared again. He looked just the same…but he was wearing different clothes. Had he died, or what?

Ever since Froggy has come to live in Balgowlah, he has been having dreams about drowning. But, when he does nearly drown and meets someone who looks just like him, he starts to realise that dreams are not his own – they are real events that happened to another boy over 100 years ago. Thaddeus Dearborne, this other boy, needs help – and only Froggy can give it. First though he must learn to trust Thaddeus, a ghost with a secret. Both boys must also learn to trust Cassie Gibbs, one of the most popular girls at Froggy’s school, who has plenty of ideas about how to unravel Tad’s story.

Ghost Boy is, as the name suggests, a ghost story, but it is also a story of friendship, loyalty and family. Pulman moves seamlessly between past and present as she tells both Froggy and Tad’s stories in the early chapters, with the remainder of the story set in the present as Froggy and his new friend Cassie work together to help Tad and to establish the family connection between Tad and Froggy.

This is a fast moving tale which children will be drawn into, wanting to solve the mystery. The historical accuracy of the novel is also appealing, with events set in and around the Quarantine Station in Sydney. Young readers will be fascinated by this piece of history, and those in the Sydney area will be excited to know they can visit and tour the Quarantine Station.

Ghost Boy is a finely crafted adventure tale, with suitability for classroom use, but plenty of appeal for private reading for readers aged 10 to 15.

Ghost Boy, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2004, first published by Scholastic, 1995