Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost!
Funke reaches out to newly independent readers with this first-in-a-series installment about beleaguered nine-year-old Tom, who bests his nasty older sister, Lola, by honing his ghosthunting skills. Sent to the cellar for orange juice, Tom, a 'fraidy cat, encounters an ASG, (Averagely Spooky Ghost), who nearly scares him out of his skin. No one in his family believes him except his sympathetic grandmother who "listened to him without constantly frowning—unlike his parents." Grandma also has a friend, Hetty Hyssop, who specializes in spectral exorcisms. Turns out that the ASG is being bullied himself, cast out of his familiar haunt by the IRG of the title. Tom and Hetty conspire to put things right and give Lola her due, too. The story is not really funny enough to appeal to kids who want humor, and not scary enough to raise goosebumps; the text tends to rely on exclamation points to inject excitement. Funke's half-tone illustrations add appeal for readers just getting the hang of chapter books but, overall, this is a somewhat pedestrian offering from the talented creator of Inkheart and The Thief Lord . Ages 7-10. (Aug.)