Thursday, January 21, 2021

Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost

Freeman, Martha. Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost
January 26th 2021 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Noah and his college professors live in a small, mostly white college town on the east coast, having moved from New York City when Noah was a baby. This is a shame, because Noah is very interested in the theater. His only exposure is the 6th grade annual production of a Shakespeare play, and he is very excited to try out. Unfortunately, the long time director, Miss Magnus, has broken her leg, and "had so many sick days saved up that she didn't have to come back until fall, so she didn't. Instead, she sat at home with her legged propped up and read poetry to her elderly Chihuahua." (*Snerk*) Mrs. Winklebottom, who has bankrolled the play for years, finds the only person who will oversee the play, Coach Newton, who is very busy with his sideline as a wedding planner. He gives the children free rein to run try outs, and while the kids are rather organized, they are glad when an older man, Mike, offers to direct and help out. Noah does mention that all volunteers need to have background checks, but soon the mysterious man is helping out. It quickly becomes apparent to Noah and his best friend Clive (whose father is Black), that Mike is a ghost. When asked directly, Mike even manifests some power, but since the play's the thing, everyone is soon back running lines and working on the set. Fuli, who was born in Nepal and whose family runs a local restaurant, is glad that Mike casts students into roles at which they are good and does not let their ethnicity restrict them. Mike has switched out Mrs. Winklebottom's bowdlerized scripts with the real version, and the students are excited about the play. When Noah's dad has to step in to help, Noah finds out more about his dad's background, and is able to solve the mystery of why they have a ghost interested in their school production. 
Strengths: I really enjoyed this, and find Freeman to be an interesting author. (Zap was fantastic.) The writing in this was especially clever, and the line about Miss Magnus and her Chihuahua was one of many that had me guffawing. It's hard to get books about plays being staged checked out in my library, but there was enough going on that this kept me interested. Noah and his friends are pleasant and hard working, but there is enough drama to move the story along. I appreciated that Freeman acknowledged that the two was predominately white, and that she identified the characters who weren't without fuss or comparing their skin to colors of food. There are several realistic interactions with Clive and Fuli talking about their experiences briefly. The mystery with Mike was mild but amusing, and Noah's interactions with the ghost seemed very true to life. This had the feel of a slightly older title, in a good way. I would definitely buy this for an elementary school library. 
Weaknesses: I could have done without some of the cutesy names (pretty sure Coach Newton's first name was Fig), since they also put this on the young end of middle grade.
What I really think: This reminded me a lot of Markell's The Ghost in Apartment 2R, which I also enjoyed. Smoothly well-written, this story included a lot of details about Shakespeare for those who are interested, as well as a family mystery and plenty of highjinks. Sadly, my students have a profound preference for murderous ghosts, so I may not purchase this, even though I really want to!

No comments:

Post a Comment