Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexandra

by William Alexandra
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure
272 pages
ages 9 to 12

National Book Award winner William Alexander conjures up a spooky adventure full of excitement in this entertaining sequel to A Properly Unhaunted Place.

Rosa Ramona Diaz, the ghost appeasing assistant librarian, has unleashed all the ghosts who were previously shut out of the small town of Ingot. Now ghosts are everywhere, and the town’s living residents are either learning to cope or trying to do the one thing no one can successfully do—banish the ghosts.

At school, something supernatural is stealing kids’ voices and leaving them speechless. And it’s Rosa’s job to solve the mystery and set things right. Meanwhile her best friend Jasper is dealing with what remains of the Renaissance Festival, where ghosts from Ingot’s past are now battling it out with the ghosts of the Renaissance reenactors. And Rosa is experiencing a haunting of her own—could her father’s ghost have followed her here?

Somehow Rosa and Jasper are going to have to find a way to bring Ingot back to normal—in a world where the living are now residing side-by-side with the dearly departed.


Note: This is the sequel to A Properly Unhaunted Place, which I did not read in advance. While A Festival of Ghosts can be read as a stand alone (and wasn't difficult to follow right away), I did find that some information later on was missing.  I can only assume this was found in the first book, and would, therefore, recommend reading this as a series.

Ghosts and haunts abound in these pages, but they hold a perfect balance on the line before creepy, making this an adventurous and mysterious read with an ample amount of fun.

Like her mother, Rosa is a ghost appeaser. She's spent most of her life growing up in a library...after all, that's a center for a haunts. Now, she's supposed to attend a real school to help appease the ghosts which keep popping up all around the building. But ghosts are easier to deal with and more predictable than living peers. Somehow, Rosa needs to figure out how to handle both while getting to the root of a mysterious haunting.

In a way, this reminded me a tinsy bit of The Sixth Sense but only very slightly. The ghosts in these pages might be a little spooky, at times, but there's enough quirkiness to keep nightmarish moments at bay (like a possessed scarf which knows how to attack). Rosa and Jasper are quite the team, not always agreeing with each other and completely opposites in many ways, but they balance each other and have each other's backs every step of the way. Even in the school scenes, the differences between them are clear but their friendship and loyalty is inspirational.

Rosa is a very self-assured character. She knows who she is and what has to be done. She doesn't ever stray from this no matter how much those around her try to taunt her, tease her or convince her that she's odd. This was a refreshing take on school bullying and brought a message without ever steering away from the main plot. Rosa doesn't fit in, and the kids make her feel this. But she lets it bounce off and keeps her sights on the real goal. It makes her easy to root for and demonstrates how important it is to like yourself no matter what others think.

While the first pages start out with a grabbing scene, it took quite a while before a clear story line and mystery settled in. The read is never boring as Rosa meets various 'little' hauntings and interacts with various other characters, but it comes across a little like wandering without a true goal. When the story finally took off much later and a clear problem came to light...or several...the story hooks and it's impossible to put the book down. These mysteries are well woven and hold several surprises, making it unsure how Rosa and Jasper will handle everything. The entire situation with Rosa's father was a little foggy but for the most part, pulls through. I'm assuming this might have been more clear after having read the first book.

Summed up, this is an entertaining read with a bit of spook, snorts, mystery, bullies to be fought and even some action scenes built in.

And here he is...

William Alexander won the National Book Award for his debut novel, Goblin Secrets, and won the Earphones Award for his narration of the audiobook. His other novels include A Festival of Ghosts, A Properly Unhaunted Place, Ghoulish Song, Nomad and Ambassador. William studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at the Clarion workshop. He teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Like the protagonist of Nomad and Ambassador, William is the son of a Latino immigrant to the US. Visit him online at and, and on Twitter via @WillieAlex. 

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