cover image The Battlefield Ghost

The Battlefield Ghost

Margery Cuyler. Scholastic, $15.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-590-10848-5

This patriotic mystery, inspired by legends surrounding the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, stars a brother and sister who move into a historic haunted house near the battlefield. Some initial phantasmal encounters effectively build suspense as an unseen presence strokes John's fingers while he plays the piano, shoves the boy and his sister into a horse stall and even feeds the horse carrots. The siblings discover that the amiable ghost is a Hessian mercenary who fought for the British and whose horse died with him in combat, and by the close of the novel, they reunite the man and his steed. Cuyler (Invisible in the Third Grade) construes the mystery primarily to convey, successfully, the historical events; all other plotting (e.g., John's family erecting a Christmas tree, a visit from the grandparents) feels superfluous. Howard's black-and-white illustrations occasionally seem at odds with the mood of the text but, at their best, deliver a spine-tingling effect, especially in the opening views of the children settling into their eerie home and the portrait of the ghost himself. A comprehensive concluding note fills in historical details of the decisive battle, and readers are rewarded with a final vivid, ghostly reenactment on the battlefield. Ages 7-10. (Sept.)