Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters

Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters
July 31st 2018 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Harper moved to Washington, D.C. with her family and found out about her paranormal abilities in Spirit Hunters. She has made friends with some of the ghosts in a nearby cemetery, and her best friend (also a ghost!) Rose has been freed from being tied to a mirror and can go with her. When the two visit the cemetary, they find that the spirits are missing, and the one remaining boy, Roderick, thinks that something bad has happened to them. Harper doesn't have a lot of time to investigate, since her parents are dragging her and her siblings, Michael and Kelly, to Razu Island, where her aunt runs a resort. At least her new friend Dayo is invited as well. She calls her grandmother and finds out it is likely spirit eaters, but her grandmother can't help because Harper's aunt is expecting a baby any day. On the island, Harper visits her evil cousin Leo, who is looking rough. He claims that a ghost girl is trying to talk to him every night and is disturbing his sleep. Harper meets Holly, a girl who was vacationing with her parents at the resort when they were all killed by the monsters, and learns more and more about how the monsters came to be and whom they are targeting. There is a lot of history on the island, and Harper sometimes has visions through the eyes of the original founder of the resort, Monty. Monty's granddaughter, Olivia, befriends the group, and provides some helpful information. As Halloween approaches and the monsters gain energy, Harper realizes that there is no one to help her, and she must defeat the monsters on her own or watch 13 young people become sacrifices!

Harper's grandmother is a Korean shaman, so the rituals and bells she uses to deal with the spirit eaters are a fresh addition to a traditional story of monsters and demons. It is particularly interesting how the Razu are traced across several different cultures and name changes before they arrive on the creepy, haunted island! This is a much scarier book than the cover would indicate, and I found myself checking behind my ears for mysterious bruises and wishing I could cover my shoulders with a blanket to keep me safe!

There are a lot of characters involved in this story, and I was able to keep them all straight, which means that Oh did a great job at constructing individual personalities for each one, including the spirits. I love Harper's irritated sister and parents, her adoring brother, her supportive friend Dayo, and even her "imaginary" friend Rose, whom she loses. Even Olivia and her troubled family are described just enough that their story made sense and added a lot to the sage of the demons. This sort of reliable character building across the entire population of the book is no easy task!

The draw of this book is, of course, the monsters. They are suitably evil. They glow from the ingested spirits that Harper must release, and are relentless in their pursuit of energy. Harper's growing skills at dealing with them will be interesting to follow in subsequent books, and I love the fact that not all of the spirits she meets are evil-- she runs across a whole range, some of whom are lovely.

Spirit Hunters has all of the best qualities of traditional ghost stories but has a fresh, updated quality with the details of Harper's Korean background and her supportive if somewhat clueless family network.

 Hale, Bruce. Fuzzy Freaks Out (Class Pets #3)
August 28th 2018 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Fuzzy and the other pets in Miss Wills' class 5-B are getting ready for Halloween. Fuzzy in particular is trying to come up with a plan so he can see all of the costumes this year, and Cinnabun is trying to have the pets have their own contest! She, of course, gets to be a princess. When strange things start to happen in the classroom, Fuzzy suspects that there might be a ghost who is messing up classrooms and making weird noises, but his investigation is thwarted by weekend trips to students' homes and general school activity. Even Fuzzy and Mistletoe have seen weird happenings, with lights going off and shadowy figures lurking. The pets try everything they can find (with some help from the internet) to persuade the ghost to leave, but eventually find who the real culprit is. The custodian, Mr. Darius, doesn't want to set traps or poison to deal with the unwelcome addition to the pets, but his assistant Rhonda has less patience and is ready to declare full scale war. Can Fuzzy make sure that the "ghost" doesn't come to harm?

Books like Birney's Humphrey and Barkley's Critter Club series, and The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson and Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S. Perl, are always popular with young readers. The pets get to see the secret life inside the school or house, and react to it in a way that young readers are not able to. There is a lot of humor to sentient pets, and the personalities (like the oddly Southern Cinnabun and not-so-bright Mistletoe) of the pets make it even more fun to see the human world through their eyes.

Fuzzy is a good manager, and he sets out with a  lot of deliberation to assess the mystery. He corrals his allies, does his research, and is able to deal fairly with the "ghost" when it is located. He also has pretty strong opinions as to what makes an appropriately suitable guinea pig costume-- and it does NOT involve a pink tutu!

The page decorations are fun, and done by Hale himself, which is a nice addition to the book. This series is bound to be a popular choice in classroom libraries and at book fairs. My own daughter still has her elementary copy of The World According to Humphrey (2004), and it was always the book she took to school as a tension reliever during state testing!

No comments:

Post a Comment