cover image The Ghost Cadet

The Ghost Cadet

Elaine Marie Alphin / Author Henry Holt & Company $14.95 (182p

Bookish, withdrawn Benjy Stark hopes for a quiet visit at his grandmother's in New Market, Va. Instead he gets lessons in the Civil War from her, and some dramatic adventures with the ghost of a cadet who was killed on the local battlefield. Benjy and his spectral friend join forces to restore the ghost's honor, overcoming painful obstacles to find a missing family heirloom. Success leads Benjy to believe that he is now a daring and gregarious boy. The change is described repeatedly, but is too abrupt to be believable. In spite of several well-drawn ghost scenes, the historical side of the story falters,weighed down by the grandmother's (and the author's) need to teach a romanticized, white, Southern view of the War Between the States. This aspect of the story blends uneasily with Benjy's purported transformation and prevents this middle-grade novel from taking off. Ages 8-12. (May)