cover image Pleasing the Ghost

Pleasing the Ghost

Sharon Creech. HarperCollins, $14.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-06-026985-2

This simultaneously sensitive and ridiculous romp by a Newbery-winning author (Walk Two Moons) begins as spunky nine-year-old Dennis explains that ghosts keep visiting him in his bedroom--""a constant parade of ghosts, but never the one I really want."" Pining for his late father, Dennis instead finds himself host to a motley crew of spirits, in particular his Uncle Arvie. Arvie wants Dennis to help his widow, Aunt Julia, discover the gifts and money he has left hidden for her in his house. Unfortunately, a stroke he suffered before his death prevents him from finding the appropriate vocabulary to convey his meaning. Kids will enjoy deciphering Arvie's speech: ""Good carpet, Dinosaur!"" translates as ""Good morning, Dennis!""; Aunt Julia's oily suitor and Billy, the class bully, are ""beany boogers."" Dennis's much-missed father--his ""pepperoni""--never does appear, but the boy finds common ground and a possible friendship with Billy, also fatherless. Arvie's earnest affection for Julia and Dennis makes him a role model as well as a clown, and Creech's attention to nuances of feeling grounds this light tale in emotional truth. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)