cover image The Horribly Haunted School

The Horribly Haunted School

Margaret Mahy. Viking Books, $14.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87490-3

Mahy (The Greatest Show Off Earth) again whips up a delectable brew of the almost-credible and the outright fantastic, laced with wryly understated dialogue and droll, Monty Python-esque ingredients. The--perhaps coincidentally named--hero is Monty Merryandrew, a lad whose father is a ""government philosopher"" employed by the Department of National Despair and whose mother is a jigsaw puzzle whiz able to assemble stretches of cloudless blue sky at the rate of 100 pieces a minute. Though preoccupied with winning the National Jigsaw Puzzle Championship, she takes action when Monty confides that he has been playing with a ghost who has for years been haunting the rusted old car in the far corner of their garden. Monty finds himself enrolled at the Brinsley Codd School for Sensible Thought, which, of course, proves far from sensible. Jolly good fun ensues after the ghost of long-deceased Brinsley Codd descends from his portrait and beseeches Monty to track down three former students (the ghost fears he has ruined their lives by refusing to cane them when they misbehaved). Adept at puzzles herself, Mahy snugly fits all the pieces of her plot together in an ending that gives the eccentric characters reason to celebrate. Ages 8-12. (June)