Monday, September 12, 2022

MMGM- Ghosts Come Rising and What We Saw

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

When I was reading Perry's book, it made me think of some of Hahn's historical ghost stories, but Hahn's newest book was such a departure from her usual style. Both of these are fantastic and will fly off your shelves! 

Perry, Adam. Ghosts Come Rising 
September 6th 2022 by Yellow Jacket
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When Liza and John's parents both die in the 1918 flu epidemic, the only relative who can care for them is Mr. Spencer. He's a photographer who is barely hanging on, but when he finds that Liza has some skills, he ramps up his business of manufacturing photographs for people who have lost relatives. Liza, with the help of scissors, glue, cotton, and photgraphic plates, has a system where she can make it look like the spirits of the deceased are appearing in the pictures. Mr. Spencer has been invited to take pictures at the Silver Star Society, but the owner, Ms. Eldridge, is rather skeptical about many of the mediums she invites to perform. Liza is sent ahead, to pretend that she is a runaway and to be taken in. She befriends Charles, Ms. Eldridge's helper, and manages to get assigned to help him guard the photographic plates from Mr. Spencer. This is perfect, of course, since she has a camera and all of her tools hidden in her valise, and is able to doctor the plates. Mr. Spencer makes a great show that he won't be touching or developign the plates, and Charles is surprised when ghostly images appear on the photographs. Liza is also surprised that the school does seem to be in a "thin place" between the spirit world and our own, and she has several frightening experiences when she thinks she sees ghosts. She's not allowed to talk to John, who is still sickly, but worries about him. The ghosts seem to be calling her to turn him over to them, which she does not intend to do! On her way to the house, she met a local boy named George who ends up checking on her. He believes her when she tells him about the scams she and Mr. Spencer pull, and after a brief moment of being scandalized, supports her because they are friends. When an investigator who has followed Mr. Spencer from the city shows up at the Silver Star Society, Liza is afraid that they will be discovered. Her life is so stressful and unreliable that this might not be a bad thing. She tries to switch the plates so that Mr. Spencer's lack of ability is revealed... but the photographs still contain ghostly images. Liza fears that the ghosts are real, and worries that they will come for her and John. Will they be able to survive?
Strengths: I read a few books, so it takes a lot to surprise me... and this definitely did. After a start a bit reminiscent of A Drowned Maiden's Hair, but with lots of interest in watching Liza both put up with Mr. Spencer and fool Ms. Eldridge, Liza's story took a lot of turns that I absolutely did not see coming. I don't want to ruin it, but the Silver Star Society wasn't all charlatans with speaking tubes and people hidden in cabinets rapping on the floor. There are some scary spirits floating about, and there are some nicely frightening scenes where Liza has to escape them. Mr. Spencer is awful and reminded me a little of Dr. Kingsbury is Rose's new Miraculous. Charles and Ms. Eldridge are very kind to Liza when she needs someone to be, and are there for her when she finds out even more secrets about her past. George is a good character as well. Spirtualism is an odd and interesting belief, and has been used to good effect in books like Smith's 2017 The Mesmerist and Harvey's 2011 Haunting Violet. 
Weaknesses: I would have liked a few more details about the flu pandemic, although I'm not sure where they would have best been worked in without slowly down the ghost story. Perhaps an epilogue? I keep meaning to hunt down a copy of Porter's 1939 Pale Horse, Pale Rider because it covers the 1918 flu epidemic, and considering what we all lived through with Covid, I think readers would be interested in knowing more about how Liza's parents died. 
What I really think: Admittedly, I picked up this book with a bit of dread, thinking that it would be similar to another popular middle grade book that utilizes vintage photographs, but it wasn't like that one at all! Definitely purchasing, and the cover will make this a book that flies off the shelf. I may have to tell readers to hang on; this starts out as a historical novel and takes a while to catapult Liza into the spirit world, but when it does, it is a wild ride full of twists and turns that I certainly didn't anticipate.

Hahn, Mary Downing. What We Saw
September 6th 2022 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Abbi and Skylar are best friends who want some excitement in their summer. On a blisteringly hot day, Skylar proposes biking three miles to the edge of town instead of the same old trip to the pool, mall, or library. It's only three miles, but takes a lot of effort, and the area where they end up isn't the most pleasant. They run into kids from their school, Jason and Carter, who aren't very pleasant, either. It is somehow exciting, though; they see what looks to be a woman and man having a clandestine encounter, with the woman parking her car, getting into the man's vehicle, and taking off, they find a treehouse in the woods, and they hear about a house where some of the high school kids party and smoke marijuana. Unfortunately, the see Skylar's brother, Rob, get drugs from Jason and Carter. This is almost enough to warn them off, but not quite. They visit a couple of times, and once see the man and woman argue. The woman runs into the woods, and the man drives off. The girls find these two interesting, and have looked at them the way they used to look at their neighbors when they pretended to investigate mysteries, so take some photos and videos of the two and their vehicles. When they come back later, the woman's car is still there, and her purse and phone are still inside. When Abbi's art teacher, Ms. Sullivan, goes missing, the girls have an awful feeling that she was the woman they saw. She was, and they also feel that their language arts teacher, Mr. Boyce, might have been the man she was meeting, since he and his wife seemed out of sorts at the pool. Unfortunately, they don't make this connection until after they go to his house to ask if they should go to the police, and even give him the phone with the pictures! After they get the phone back and the pictures have been deleted, they know they need to go to the police, especially when their teacher is found dead. The police take them seriously and gather their evidence, and Abbi's mother says she shouldn't hang out with Skylar any more. The girls can't leave well enough alone, and eventually connect Jason and Carter to parts of the crime. Will they be able to get the help they need from adults before the murderer finds them?
Strengths: It's a hot summer day and it's soooooo boring! So of COURSE you jump on your bike with your best friend and go to a seedy part of town to spy on strangers. Hahn changes gears a bit from her ghost stories and pens an awesome realistically scary book that instantly transported me to a small, dusty town in the summer time. Abbi's mother works, and Skylar's mother is supposed to keep tabs on the two girls, but they're good about telling the adults what they want to hear. Abbi's mother is dating a really nice guy, and while this isn't essential to the story, it added a nice layer to Abbi's life. The three go out to dinner, get ice cream, and he's very supportive when all of the investigations start. The fact that it is a teacher the girls know who gets murdered is weirdly perfect. When you think about it, cozy mysteries always kill off people in the town who are somewhat sympathetic! There is a lot of real danger, with Jason and Carter having fallen into a really bad crowd and selling drugs because they need the money. This reminded me of some of Joan Lowery Nixon's 1990s titles. It's an upper middle grade title that will definitely deliver a frisson of danger!
Weaknesses: This seemed both a little cheesy and also very dangerous, and as a parent I was a little appalled... but it's absolutely perfect for tween readers. We're biking to the edge of town without water? What is Skylar's mother thinking? How can she not know that Rob is smoking weed? And yet, as an almost thirteen year old, I was biking all over town with friends. Since my students are always looking for murder mysteries, they are going to love this just as much as this made me uncomfortable!
What I really think: I'm going to have to buy at least two copies, and fans of April Henry are going to adore this one.


  1. This both look very interesting. Have a lovely week.

  2. Both books sound great, especially Spirits Come Rising. I like speculative historical fiction (or should that be historical speculative fiction?).

  3. Ghosts and murder mysteries -- tweens will be sure to love these two books. I especially like Ghost Come Rising with all it's surprising twists and turns. Remember I went to a Spiritualist gathering and couldn't get out of there fast enough! Thanks for sharing.

  4. These both sounds pretty good. I'll be looking for them. Thanks for your reviews.