Among the Ghosts
Among the Ghosts
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Annotation: While spending the summer at The New Newbridge Academy where she will soon begin sixth grade, Noleen finds strange things happening and discovers the special talent her aunts saw in her when she was a motherless infant.
Catalog Number: #4392302
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Aladdin
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition Date: 2010
Illustrator: Grace, Sina,
Pages: 244 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-416-99405-X
ISBN 13: 978-1-416-99405-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2009029392
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Eleven-year-old Noleen-Anne (Noh) arrives at her new boarding school before the start of the school year, but she doesn't lack for company. She befriends a bevy of ghosts only she can see, and discovers that a great evil roams the burnt-out shell of the school's west wing. Noh's ethereal friends begin to disappear one by one, and the trail leads to a whopper of an experiment in the basement of the ruined building. This is an ambitious tale involving friendships, aphid farming, and generating electricity, just to name a few of the many plot particulars. As such, too many details and tangents overload what is otherwise a solid ghost story into a jumble, and the few black-and-white line drawings sprinkled throughout the text seem more incidental than integral. However, sympathetic characters such as Noh and her spectral friends will save it for some, while the short chapters move the action along at a good pace. The spooky subject matter makes it likely to circulate as well.
Horn Book
When Noh enrolls at New Newbridge Academy, she makes some unusual friends that only she can see--the ghosts that wander the school. Soon she's wrapped up in a mystery, as her friends begin to inexplicably vanish from the property. Fans of paranormal mysteries may not mind untangling the many subplots of this spooky tale.
Kirkus Reviews
Ghostly children, a long-dead inventor, a voracious monster (sort of), a motherless-but-plucky girl, a mysterious private school, clever chapter headings and arch authorial asides are all jumbled together to create something that winds up being less than the sum of its parts. Young Noh (full name Noleen-Anne Harris Morgan Maypother) finds her way to New Newbridge Academy and her aunt Sarah after her absent-minded father sends her to stay with a different aunt who happens to be unavailable. Within a few days, Noh makes friends with various ghosts, finds a mysterious formula, thwarts the inventor's evil machine, escapes from the monster and discovers that she has unusual powers. Benson's celebrity (she played a role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer ) and multimedia directing credits may attract some potential readers, but the hodgepodge of typical fantasy conventions, unlikely plot twists, excessive description and decidedly flat characterization will prevent all but the most persistent from slogging along to the final page. Which, in typical fantasy fashion, sets up a sequel. Skip this one and the next one too. (Fantasy. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 4&11;6&12; So that he can explore the Appalachians, Noleen Maypother's scientist father sends her off to her Aunt Clara's for the summer&12;apparently without checking his sister's availability first. Noh arrives to find a vacant house and decides to take the train to New Newbridge, where her other aunt teaches at the academy. Since Noh will be a sixth grader there in the fall, it seems a logical solution. Aunt Sarah welcomes her and helps her get settled into the old boarding school. But as soon as she arrives, strange things start happening: she meets other children around the ruins of the burned-out West Wing and discovers that they are the ghosts of former students and that she is the only "realie" who can see them. And when her ghost friends start to disappear, it is up to her to solve the mystery and help the ghosts who are left. Benson incorporates some creative ingredients but fails to combine them in a satisfying way. The characters are two-dimensional, the dialogue is stilted, and the plotline so far-fetched and meandering that even the ghosts and the "nasty thing" that lurks in the background will fail to keep most students' attention. Occasional black-and-white drawings are scattered throughout and add nothing to the story. Readers with an interest in the paranormal are better directed to books by Mary Downing Hahn or to Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's "Suddenly Supernatural" series (Little, Brown).&12; Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist (3/1/10)
Horn Book (4/1/11)
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal (2/1/11)
Word Count: 36,482
Reading Level: 6.3
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 6.3 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 139542 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:8.4 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q49496
Lexile: 990L

Ants and Sweaters

Thomas spied the ants as he waited by the back door to the kitchen. At first he ignored their merry procession, his mind overwhelmed with thoughts of the rich, buttery apple pie that he knew was baking in the oven only a few feet from where he was standing. Once or twice he let his eyes flick away from the window in the kitchen door in order to mark the ants’ progression, but it was only after he saw Mrs. Marble pull the golden-crusted beauty from the oven that he gave the ants a real looking at.

From what Thomas could tell, it seemed like the ants were on their way home from a military reconnaissance mission in the kitchen. They marched single file down the concrete steps that led to the kitchen door, across the sidewalk, and into the grass. They each carried a small piece of white fluff on their backs, which to Thomas made them all look like they were wearing little angora sweaters. A grin splitting his face at the thought of ants in knitted sweaters, he decided that the white stuff was definitely not angora, but something edible that the ants had stolen from Mrs. Marble’s kitchen.

Thomas didn’t like anyone stealing from Mrs. Marble—even the ants. Mrs. Marble was the nicest lady in the whole world as far as Thomas was concerned, besides which she baked some of the best pies this side of the Mason-Dixon Line… or at least, that’s what everyone said after they’d sampled one of her delicious desserts.

Feeling like a police detective in search of a crime—a policeman was something Thomas had always wanted to be when he grew up, after being a chef, of course—he decided to follow the ants and see where they were going. He pushed his brown newsboy cap out of his eyes and followed the thieving insects across the school grounds, past the archery field, and back over to the burned-out shell of the West Wing.

There had been a fire in the West Wing a number of years before, and now most people kept away from the building. Thomas thought those people were silly for being scared of an old, burned-out building, but he guessed that anyone was allowed to feel any way they wanted to about stuff that scared them. Though personally he believed that just because something didn’t look perfect anymore, didn’t mean you had to be scared of it. Sometimes a pie didn’t come out looking perfect, but that didn’t mean you threw it away—misshapen pie tasted just as good as any other kind of pie, thank you very much!

On the steps that led into the main entrance of the West Wing, Thomas paused to tip his cap to a girl who was sitting on the topmost step. She had her nose pressed firmly into a book, but she looked up and gave him a quick grin as he passed her by. Thomas spent most of his time in the kitchen, which was where he’d worked… before, but because of this, he didn’t really know the other kids at the school very well. He wasn’t sure what this particular girl’s name was, but he thought it began with the letter N—although he couldn’t really be sure. He was much better at remembering recipes than names.

Before the grin had even left her face, the girl was back into her book. Thomas saw that she didn’t even notice the ants that were marching up the steps beside her. If he’d been the one sitting by an army of ants, he’d sure have noticed them.

Thomas went through the door that led into the interior of the building, his eyes trained on the ants’ progress. Instantly he saw that the line of ants was making its way across the room before disappearing down into a small hole that sat right underneath the hearth of a large brick fireplace. Thomas got as close to the hole as he could, putting his eyeball right up to it, but it was so dark that he really couldn’t see where the ants were going at all.

Suddenly Thomas felt his whole body go stiff as a strange, prickly sensation swept across him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up at attention. Thomas hadn’t felt anything like this in so long that at first he almost didn’t recognize what it was.

It was only when his teeth started to chatter that he realized what was happening to him. For the first time in more than eighty years, Thomas was cold. He looked up from where he was crouching by the base of the fireplace, and his eyes went wide when he saw what was waiting for him.

He opened his mouth to shout, but only a deep gurgle of fear popped out. It filled the empty room like the hollow sound of the last piece of candy rattling around inside a trick-or-treater’s Halloween grab bag.

When the girl with the book came back inside from her perch on the stairs, the room was empty. She scratched a bug bite on her arm and looked around curiously. She was pretty sure that she’d seen the boy from the kitchen come in here only a few minutes before.

She wondered where he’d gone.

© 2010 Amber Benson

Excerpted from Among the Ghosts by Amber Benson
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

The New Newbridge Academy has a strange, storied history and a gothic atmosphere, and since Noh’s aunt is a teacher there, it’s where Noh will be spending the summer while her father travels for work. Noh, slightly eccentric herself, enjoys exploring the campus, but things get spooky when she meets several other children near an old burned-out dormitory. There shouldn’t be students around in the summer, right? But these kids turn out to be ghosts, and they need Noh’s help. She is the only “realie” who can see them—and, now that the ghosts have started to disappear, the only one who can save them.

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