Ghosts go ‘boo!’ in time for Hal­loween

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By He­len Nor­rie

WITH Hal­loween ap­proach­ing, what could be more ap­pro­pri­ate than books fea­tur­ing ghosts? Toronto au­thor and pub­li­cist Evan Mun­day first in­tro­duced his cir­cle of un­likely sleuths in The Dead Kid De­tec­tive Agency (2011). In his sec­ond book, The Dead Kid De­tec­tive Agency: Dial “M” for Morna (ECW Press, 293 pages, $12 pa­per­back), Oc­to­ber Schwartz mar­shals her dis­in­terred troops to solve the mys­tery of how Morna was mur­dered in 1914. Mun­day writes in a style that is tonguein-cheek, with sly asides and some­times dis­tract­ing com­ments. As Oc­to­ber gets mes­sages on an un­con­nected phone in a haunted house, her liv­ing friend, Yumi, gets into trou­ble in her job as the school’s noon-hour DJ. When she’s also the tar­get of racial slurs, Oc­to­ber and her un­earthly col­leagues have another mys­tery to solve. The school scenes are re­al­is­tic and ef­fec­tive, leav­ing one to won­der if this is where Mun­day should con­cen­trate his tal­ents. How­ever, lovers of the su­per­nat­u­ral, es­pe­cially this month, may pre­fer the pres­ence of the ceme­tery res­i­dents. Good for ages 9-12.

Youngest read­ers (4-8) will en­joy Scaredy Squir­rel Pre­pares for Hal­loween by Mon­treal au­thor and artist Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press, 64 pages, $19 hard­cover). In his usual style, Scaredy gives di­rec­tions for ev­ery­thing from cos­tumes to snacks on a Hal­loween theme. How do you throw a no-scare Hal­loween party? What are the least-threat­en­ing Hal­loween good­ies? Do you want to dress as a hero or a vil­lain? Scaredy Squir­rel has all the an­swers.

For older read­ers who en­joy the para­nor­mal, Gail Gal­lant, who di­vides her time be­tween Grey County, Ont., and Lon­don, Eng­land, has writ­ten a de­cid­edly spooky story in Ap­pari­tion (Dou­bleday Canada, 274 pages, $15 pa­per­back). Seven­teen-year-old Amelia Macken­zie is heart­bro­ken when she learns her best friend, Matthew, has died in an old barn, sup­pos­edly by sui­cide, but when she vis­its the barn she finds she can see Matthew’s ghost. When she dis­cov­ers there have been a num­ber of un­ex­plained deaths in that same lo­ca­tion, she sets out to un­cover and de­stroy the evil pres­ence that haunts the place Matthew died. In the process of her in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Amelia meets Kip, who threat­ens to re­place Matthew in her af­fec­tions. But can he com­pete with Kip’s ghost, who con­tin­ues to haunt the old barn, and Amelia’s heart? Lots of ro­mance and un­re­quited love in this young adult thriller.

For the story that will def­i­nitely keep you awake at nights, how­ever, try Asy­lum (HarperCollins, 310 pages, $20 hard­cover) by Cal­i­for­nia au­thor Madelaine Roux. When 16-year-old Dan Craw­ford en­rols in a New Eng­land prep school for the sum­mer, he’s pre­pared for some dif­fer­ent classes, but not for mur­der and mad­ness. Dan dis­cov­ers the dor­mi­tory of the school was a for­mer sana­to­rium, or in the lan­guage of the past, a lu­natic asy­lum. When he and his new friends Abby and Jor­dan are drawn to ex­plore the locked­off sec­tions of the old build­ing they are in­tro­duced to hor­rors they have never imag­ined. More­over, th­ese strange vi­sions seem to re­late to their own emo­tions. But when one of the stu­dents is found mur­dered, they know they need to un­cover a decades old mys­tery. Mak­ing this creepy tale all the more chill­ing are real pic­tures taken from old files of peo­ple, places and ex­per­i­ments in ac­tual for­mer sana­to­ri­ums. The book ends with a sug­ges­tion that there may be more episodes to fol­low. For ages 14 and up. And do lock the doors be­fore you read this one. Win­nipeg­ger He­len Nor­rie is a for­mer teacher-li­brar­ian. Her col­umn ap­pears on

the third weekend of the month.

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