cover image Ghost Squad

Ghost Squad

Claribel A. Ortega. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-338-28012-8

When Dominican-American Lucely Luna, 12, learns that her single father might lose their house, her primary concern is for the myriad ghosts of her family, who inhabit the willow tree out back as fireflies, at least when they’re not manifesting in human form. When her grandmother’s spirit warns her of a coming darkness before falling dormant, Luna and her best friend, Syd Faires, seek to revive Mamá. Borrowing a book of magic from Syd’s grandmother, who owns an occult store, they cast a spell that unleashes malevolent forces upon the town of St. Augustine—one that they must reverse to defeat the evil that seeks to destroy them all. With this delightfully spooky adventure, Ortega draws upon her Dominican heritage to craft a heartwarming story with a strong focus on family genetic and found. A peppering of pop culture references—a nod to Ghostbusters, a clowder of cats named for Goonies characters—add humor, but it’s the personal touches, such as Lucely’s opinionated, ever-present ancestors; her dedication to those she loves; and an emphasis on Latinx food, love, and folklore, that gives this debut its distinctive spirit. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary. (Apr.)