cover image The Scariest Night

The Scariest Night

Betty Ren Wright. Holiday House, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0904-4

Erin, 12, resents her parents' adopting Cowper, a nine-year-old musical genius and the child of recently deceased friends. Because of him, the family is spending the summer in Milwaukee, where Cowper will attend a conservatory. Erin misses the fun she would have had with her friends investigating a ``haunted'' schoolhouse and renting scary videos. But when Erin writes and directs her own video, another side of Cowper emerges, and she ultimately exchanges self-centeredness for the role of a loving big sister. The book's narrative and dialogue have the sound of a bygone era, and Wright ( The Dollhouse Murders ; A Ghost in the Window ) gives her heroine a theatrical bent. The title is justified: Erin witnesses a seance conducted by an elderly neighbor and later agonizes with her parents over Cowper's disappearance. But the ride to that point is tedious, and readers may want to disembark much earlier. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)