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Steinbeck's Ghost Hardcover – September 2, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–7—Travis, 13, is trying to adjust to his family's move from Salinas, CA, to a brand-new development. To him, his new home and neighborhood are like Camazotz, the planet from A Wrinkle in Time where everything is the same. His parents seem to work all the time to support their current lifestyle, leaving him on his own. An almost magnetic pull draws him back to his old neighborhood and his favorite place, the John Steinbeck Library, only to discover that it is in jeopardy of being closed. The focus of the novel changes as Travis becomes immersed in the campaign to save it. His friend, Hilario, becomes involved as well. The mysterious underpinnings of the story begin when Travis cycles by Steinbeck's house and sees a boy writing in the attic window. Steinbeck's stories haunt him, and he starts to see characters from them. The second half of the book is the most absorbing. When he, Hil, and an elderly author go into the hills of Corral de Tierra, they have magical experiences that bring them closer to Steinbeck's world. There are some convenient plot twists and stereotypical characters. The protagonist, however, is well drawn. This novel would have greatest appeal to readers familiar with Steinbeck's works.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When 13-year-old Travis discovers his beloved John Steinbeck Public Library is threatened with closure, he and his best friend, Hilario, spring into action. Despite the risk of being dubbed Library Dorks, the two become stalwart—and very public—members of the Save Our Library Committee. Set in Nobel laureate John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas, California, Buzbee’s first novel for young readers is based on the actual closure of the town’s libraries in 2005. But things quickly take a turn for the weird when characters from Steinbeck’s novels start coming to life and Trav, with the help of a local author and Steinbeck aficionado, tries to find out why. The answers he discovers are not completely satisfactory, since the realistic and the fantastic elements of the story never really gel. But Buzbee’s love for literature and libraries is infectious and, for those similarly inclined, deeply satisfying. Grades 5-8. --Michael Cart
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends; First Edition edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312373287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312373283
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,769,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

To learn more, visit lewisbuzbee.com

Lewis Buzbee is a fourth generation California native. He began writing in 1972, at the upripe age of 15, after reading the first chapter of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and unfortunately, things haven't improved since then. He sold his first two short stories in 1979 and has been published, and unpublished, since then. He's worked as, in this order, a dishwasher, a bookseller, a publisher, a caterer, a bartender, and a teacher of writing. He and his wife, the poet Julie Bruck, live with their daughter Maddy in San Francisco, just half a block from Golden Gate Park. His books for adults include The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, Fliegelman's Desire, After the Gold Rush, and First to Leave Before the Sun.

His first novel for middle grade readers, Steinbeck's Ghost, was published in 2008 by Feiwel and Friends and was selected for these honors: a Smithsonian Notable Book, a Northern California Book Award Nominee, the Northern California Independent Booksellers' Association Children's Book of the Year, and the California Library Association's John and Patricia Beatty Award.

His second middle-grade novel, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, won the Northern California Book Award, was nominated for an Edgar Award, and was chosen as a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book.

His new middle grade novel, Bridge of Time, is now out in paperback, and a new nonfiction book, Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom, has just been released.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia A. Jones on November 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Steinbeck's Ghost is an amazing combinaion of beautiful writing that is fun to read. As an adult, it made me want to go back to Steinbeck, re-read old favorites and read the ones I've missed. It is a book for many ages, but I think it would be ideal for middle-schoolers/early teens who may have read their first Steinbeck and could relate well with the central character, a boy navigating the teen years, trying to figure out how to deal with his changing relationship with his parents, the role of mentors in his life, and just finding his own way in the world, all through solving a mystery and saving a library. Wow, truly a must read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Alberigi McKenzie VINE VOICE on September 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm an adult. Yep. Still, I love to read children's books and this one is terrific!

The plot revolves around Travis's love of the library, and some unexplainable apparitions. Filled with kid-talk and adventure, and accented with the history of the Monterey Peninsula and the Salinas area,this is one fun adventure book.

Well done, Mr. Buzbee!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am a great Harry Potter fan and I am picky about my books and this one shot through the roof of my expectations. Travis is someone I can really relate to because he loves books and wants to save a Library (which is awesome). I wanted to go to Salinas right away after I read the book and see Steinbeck's house. I had read a Wrinkle in Time (a great book) and want to read some of the other books mentioned. One of my favorite characters was Oster because he was a writer also and he helped Travis along the way. I loved the book and hope it turns into a series.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Sack VINE VOICE on February 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this book, a teenager's world gets flipped upside down when suddenly the works of John Steinbeck come to life. Travis has moved to a new place. He doesn't really like all the new changes in his life, such as his parent's working later and his new house. Travis travels back to a place he loves, the library. He learns that the library will be closing soon if they don't collect enough money. He joins the library's committee to save Steinbeck's library. As he volunteers a mystery unfolds, which him and his friends, both new and old, try to solve it. This book makes references to many of Steinbeck's works and makes for a good read after reading his classic novels.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Varadan on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Can the unfinished business a famous writer takes to his grave bring his fictional characters to life? This is the case in Steinbeck's Ghost, a mystery that unravels bit by bit as characters from John Steinbeck's stories leave a trail of clues for 13-year-old Travis Williams to solve.

In Steinbeck's Ghost, author Lewis Buzbee captures that feel of how an author can send you to another world. It doesn't take long for a reader to enter Travis's world -- a move to a new subdivision, upwardly mobile parents who are devoured by their new jobs, his own nostalgia for the old neighborhood -- and be drawn into the mystery that confronts him. Why does Travis see the ghost of young Steinbeck in an attic window? Who is the homeless man in the alley? Why do The Watchers keep appearing on the hills behind Travis's subdivision, and what do they want from him?

A subplot that involves budget cuts threatening to close the library reminds a reader all over again of the special door to other worlds only a library can offer. Eventually this book is a cluster of journeys: a journey through Steinbeck's California (Salinas, Monterrey, The Gabilan and Santa Lucia Mountains); a journey through books and the continuing enjoyment they provide; and Travis's journey as he resolves his own family concerns while resolving a troubled ghost's regrets.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shannon M. Mcgee on October 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There was nothing about this book I did not like. It's a book encouraging young kids to read books. And unlike some books that mention other books, this one does not leave you feeling left out if you have not read the books mentioned. It describes the books, the feel of them and the basics of the story. It made me want to read the books mentioned.
The story of the book is done differently then I have read before - characters from Steinbeck's novels really do feel as if they come to life in it, I could believe they're real. The book isn't scary, maybe a little creepy, but it's really about the love of books and the stories they tell. I still have lines from the book stuck in my head and pictures of how the town Travis looked like the world in A Wrinkle in Time. This was a book that I would read again and again just for the feeling it gives me about reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Looking for some books to entice a reluctant reader, I stumbled upon Mr. Buzbee's book in a library book sale and was captivated by the cover description. I have read my share of Steinbeck throughout my high school and college years and had a comfortable relationship with the author. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the author engaged me and had me hooked into the story of a young boy trying to make sense of his life and new environs. The addition of characters from Steinbeck's classics added to the story without overpowering Travis' struggle to fit in and find his place in the world. I especially enjoyed the research scenes, which made the task seem like a great adventure to share with friends. As a former elementary school teacher, I wish I had shared it with my classes. As a grandmother, I am looking forward to giving this novel to my grandson and discussing it with him. As several previous reviewers have mentioned, I found myself dusting off my old copies of Steinbeck's stories and rereading them. What a wonderful means to refresh people's memory (or entice them in the first place) and revisit great literature. As a stand-alone novel, this book hits all the right buttons. I whole-heartedly recommend this book for middle school students and up.
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