Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier; Scholastic/Graphix; 256 pages ($10.99 paperback) Ages 8 to 12.
Raina Telgemeier is the reigning queen of graphic novels for girls, with “Smile, “Sisters” and “Drama,” all entertaining and illuminating tales of the preadolescent and adolescent experience. She never condescends to her readers, and in this one, she offers a family haunted by illness. “Ghosts” is another sisters’ tale, of a family pulling up roots and moving to the oceanside community of Bahia de La Luna in northern California in hopes of providing a healthier environment for younger daughter Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. Older sister Catrina tries to be a good sport about the move but is less than thrilled with the idea of making new friends and is especially put off by Carlos, a Mexican-American neighbor boy who gives ghost tours in a ruined arcade. Catrina dislikes all talk of ghosts and death and she is disturbed by her new town’s obsession with the Day of the Dead, and also put off by her little sister’s insistence that she must talk to a ghost. A hike with Carlos to the mission to commune with ghosts ends up putting Maya in the hospital, reinforcing Cat’s negative outlook about her new town. Telgemeier says her book was partially inspired by a 13-year-old cousin who died of cancer and the setting by the foggy coastal North California town where she grew up. (One particularly gorgeous double-page illustration finds the sisters following an unfamiliar path on their first day in town and coming unexpectedly on a spectacular view of the ocean.)
– Jean Westmoore
Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis; Roaring Brook Press ($16.99)
“Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies.” This marvelous picture book of friendship on Planet Boborp is hugely entertaining with its nonsense words, which somehow make sense, and its wildly colored pink and purple beings fighting and then making up, while at the same time offering a universal and important message about friendship and getting along. The tale hums along in a fabulous crazy singsong: “They play eyeball in the peedle pit…”) until the two have a falling out over sharing a “burfday gift,” a “spossip.” (which resembles a spaceship.)
– Jean Westmoore
“Ghost Talkers” by Mary Robinette Kowal; Tor Books (304 pages, $24.99)
In Mary Robinette Kowal’s version of World War I, there are no materialists in the foxholes. While British soldiers and their allies fight Germans on the ground, American heiress Ginger Stuyvesant battles Jerry through the ether. She’s a medium.
Kowal seeds her novel with friendly namedrops for Brit-lit and fantasy fans. Arthur Conan Doyle is part of the disinformation campaign to protect the Spirit Corps’ cover. Stuyvesant and company are aided by a helpful Lt. Tolkien (the future “Lord of the Rings” author did serve in France in 1916). Fans of the Whoverse will be sure to notice a cameo by the Fourth Doctor. – Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel