Rating: 📘 📘 📘 📘 / 5
237 pages; Scholastic Press; 2020
This delightful Middle Grade novel by debut author Claribel A. Ortega has it all: the fierce friendship of two spunky 12 year olds, a colourful cast of characters, magic, spine-chilling moments, and a beautifully tubby cat named Chunk while weaving elements from the author’s Dominican heritage that enrich the story from its opening pages.
GHOST SQUAD kicks off with an opening scene that sets up the tone for the entire book: Lucely comforted by the spirit of her fierce but loving grandmother Mama Teresa during a fierce thunderstorm.
From there, we’re introduced to a lively family scene featuring Lucely’s ghostly family, who appear as fireflies to others, including her father, Simon. A heartwarming and funny scene that will evoke memories of loud family gatherings filled with laughter, antics, and the occasionally scowling relative.
One night, as her father leads a ghost tour of the cemeteries of St. Augustine, Florida, Lucely’s grandmother appears with a warning that sets off a chain of events.
This leads Lucely and her best friend Syd Faires down and at times bone chilling and hair raising scenarios that begin when the girls recite a spell that accidentally releases malicious spirits. The two girls find themselves racing against the clock to save their hometown with the help of Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette with the assistance of Chunk, and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.
It’s a page-turning read that at time will evoke vivid images in your imagination, especially during scenes where the girls are confronted by the spirits, who are determined to take over St. Augustine, in various cemeteries.
Readers with a strong imagination will find themselves smack dab in the middle of every experience – and potentially interacting with the characters in their mind. Claribel has created a world that’s rich with realistic elements and just the right touch of magic to transport you to an alternative reality.
This is a book for readers aged 10 and above who are seeking a story that’s thrilling, heartwarming, and funny. It’s a perfect read for any day of the year but it would be a great read for Halloween – between bites of delicious candy.