Our second grade daughter is a librarian's ideal child. She has a love of reading that sometimes borders on obsessive. For example, never did I think that as a mom I'd have to order my daughter to put her book down and eat her dinner. Or stop reading while walking so she doesn't hurt herself.
This has also resulted in her developing a reading ability far above her grade level. We can't keep up with her desire for new books to read. She likes fantasy and some mild science fiction, as long as it isn't too scary. So when Scholastic asked us to try out the new "Ghost Buddy" book series, I hoped the idea of a ghost as a main character wouldn't be too scary for her.
“Hoove,” as the ghost normally calls himself, is Billy's total opposite. He was 14, and is incredibly cool and stylish, without even trying. He's also been dead for 99 years, and that's where his problem comes in. In order to be able to move on outside the boundaries of his family's former ranchero, he has to pass his Ghost Report Card. He's managed passing grades on haunting skills and invisibility, and is easily passing personal hygiene, but his grades in “Responsibility” and “Helping Others” are abysmal. And if he can't get a passing grade from helping out Billy, he'll never move on.
The first book, Zero to Hero, focuses on Billy and Hoove's first meetings, and we are introduced to the core cast for the upcoming books. In addition to Billy, his family, and Hoove, we also meet Ruby Baker (Billy's presumed love interest), next-door-neighbor/law-enforcement enthusiast/bully Rod Brownstone, and cool kid and potential new best friend for Billy, Ricardo Perez. Hoove and Billy manage to forge an unlikely friendship as Hoove helps Billy defend himself from Rod's bullying and helps him earn some modicum of respect in his new school.
Mind if I Read Your Mind? centers around a public speaking competition at the school where Hoove sets Billy up to win by demonstrating his powers of mind-reading. Conflict arises when Billy spends more time paying attention to his mortal friends than Hoove, and Hoove ends up feeling unappreciated.
Both books are written with an easy, breezy style that will appeal to younger readers, although I think that some of the language may be on the edge of their vocabulary levels. Billy is a compelling protagonist, very much a Peter Parker-esque figure who nothing can go right for, and who most readers will see something of themselves in. And the Hoove is an irascible rogue whose heart is, ultimately, in the right place (shades of author Henry Winkler's old role as The Fonz, in fact).
As the series progresses (these are the only two books out so far), it is clear that Billy will continue to grow and evolve beyond needing Hoove's assistance, and Hoove will finally get his passing grade in Helping Others and Responsibility, and be granted his freedom to go and visit every baseball stadium in America.
The books are thoroughly fun, and quick reads and I think that Winkler and Lin Oliver have another successful series on their hands. I read both in a single afternoon, so the average grade-school kid should be able to manage them without too much difficulty.
Our second-grader read the first in a single day of bus trips to and from school. She likes the books, calling them "fun and cool, but a little creepy." We'll need to work on her review style, I think.
Win a set for yourself! (Or your kids!)
Want to give these books a try? I've got two sets of the first and second "Ghost Buddy" books to giveaway from Scholastic.
To enter: leave a comment below telling me your favorite childhood book. Please be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you're the winner, too.
Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm ET Wednesday, September 26, 2012. One entry per person, US mailing addresses only. Two winners will be chosen at random after the giveaway closes. Winners must respond within 48 hours or alternate winners will be selected.
Full disclosure: I was provided with a copy of each of these books from Scholastic to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own, and those of my daughter, who thinks that having a ghost for a friend is just a little odd.