Ghost Town

Richard W. Jennings, Author . Houghton Mifflin $16 (167p) ISBN 978-0-547-19471-4

After the town is abandoned, the sole residents of downtrodden Paisley, Kans., are precocious 13-year-old Spencer Honesty and his mother, who is still a paid employee of Paisley's post office. Spencer spends his time talking to his make-believe, poetry-writing Indian friend, Chief Leopard Frog, and taking photographs of the empty town. But when ghostly ex-residents appear in his photographs, Spencer begins to see artistic potential in his isolation. Paisley, with its numerous spiders, reptiles and vacated buildings, emerges as just as vivid a character as Spencer; others, including Spencer's departed crush, Maureen, and the wheeling-and-dealing owner of an oddities catalogue who takes an interest in Chief Leopard Frog's carved talismans are more peripheral, developing through letters they exchange with Spencer. Spencer's frequent musings on solitude, art and life are thought provoking and often funny (artists who got famous by painting objects like chairs were simply “stuck in their rooms,” he reasons. “What else was there to look at?”). Despite the need for suspension of disbelief throughout, the highly fortuitous outcome comes across as a stretch—but it's a fun ride getting there. Ages 12–up. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/29/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
Genre: Children's
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