Thursday, September 01, 2022

The Curse on Spectacle Key

Acevdeo, Chantal. The Curse on Spectacle Key
September 6th 2022 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
It is with palpable relief that Frank Fernandez' starts his summer break in Auburn, Alabama. He's been accepted into the Junior Librarian Program, and has made plans to hang out with his best friend Lane at the lazy river at the pool. His parents have recently converted a train station into a home, and move every year so that they can renovate a different place. This has been hard on Frank, who finds it difficult to make friends, but they've promised that he will get two years in Alabama. This changes when they buy a lighthouse on Spectacle Key in Florida. The only saving grace is that the family will be nearer to his beloved grandfather, Pop-Pop, and will make the area their new home base. When they travel there, things don't look good. There is a local politician, who is trying to make things hard for them, and the lighthouse itself has a lot of issues, from standard ones like weak construction and mold to unusual ones like attacking crabs and very aggressive plants! Frank, along with his new Great Dane Mary Shelley, take a look around the island and find an abandoned cottage. There's even a creepy doll that the dog decides is hers. Normally, Frank is all about all things horror related, but when he meets a very confused ghost, he just wants to help her figure out what is going on. Is she even a ghost? They contact a local medium, Madame Z, to ask her, and are still unsure. Frank is being followed by another spirit as well; he and the girl, who names herself Connie, refer to it as "the Snuffler" because of the sniffing noises it makes. Is it responsible for the misspelled messages the "Farnk" is recieving scrawled in the dust? After a lot of research, he and Connie find that the cottage was the site of the Island Foundling Home that was devastated in a horrible storm 100 years ago. Could Connie and the Snuffler have been children who have been forgotten? As the lighthouse continues to experience weird problems and zoning setbacks, his parents are about reday to give up. Will Frank be able to help both his parents and the two spirits who have befriended him?
Strengths: I was so intrigued by the Fernandez' renovation business that I wanted the whole book to be about their various projects! If I had all the money in the world, I think I would want to live in a renovated Carnegie Library! Even though he's made big plans for the summer, he doesn't complain about moving, which was rather refreshing. He throws himself right in to a new adventure, and it does help that his parents got him a dog. He uncovers local history, gets help from a medium (who happens to be the mayor!) and a librarian, and is really concerned about preserving history and helping his new friends, even if they are ghosts. I also enjoyed his grandfather, and liked how Cuban culture and language were included. This is a great choice for elementary school readers who want to dip their toes into somewhat scarier books but don't want anything too frightening, as well as middle school readers who like a good haunted house story like Oh's The Spirit Hunters. 
Weaknesses: The cover isn't all that appealing, although it does set just the right mood for the level of scariness. Also, this is just me, but I don't think that I would ever want to live anywhere near the Florida Keys! Water and human habitation are not a good mix!
What I really think: There are a growing number of books where the ghosts are friendly and help solves mysteries. These included Uhrig's new The Polter-Ghost Problem, Urban's Almost There and Almost Not, Ortega's Ghost Squad, Narsimhan's Eerie Tales from the East, Bradley's Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, and a few others that #MGLit people on Twitter helped me find! 

Ms. Yingling

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