- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 0680 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 4, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553522140
- ISBN-13: 978-0553522143
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ghostlight Hardcover – August 4, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Avery and her older brother, Blake, always spend summers on their grandmother's sprawling Tennessee farm. When Blake decides he is too old for Avery's favorite pretend game, Avery is furious and wounded. Then Avery meets a boy named Julian, an aspiring filmmaker. Julian is fascinated by a spooky old house on her grandmother's property—a house that Avery's grandmother has forbidden her to enter. Yet Avery can't resist when Julian invites her to help with his latest project: filming a ghost story. The new friends encounter some bizarre, downright alarming phenomena in the old house, and Julian sees the location as a perfect cinematic opportunity. Avery begins to research the history of the house and her ancestors who lived there. She hates disobeying her grandmother, but the more research she does, the more certain she becomes that the truth about the house's reclusive last resident needs to be discovered. Gensler conveys Avery's "left behind younger sibling" feelings in an authentic, relatable way. She also gently addresses the frustrations of children in unconventional family situations, and the awkwardness of cultural/religious disagreements between parents and grandparents. Supernatural elements are "real," but not exaggerated to the point of being hokey. The true beauty here is the story's inspiration to budding journalists, historians, and genealogists. Readers are in for a good ghost story, but also for encouragement to learn more about their own local histories and family trees.VERDICT Ghostlight is well paced and suspenseful with a sensitive, endearing protagonist.—Sara White, Seminole County Public Library, Casselberry, FL
About the Author
Sonia Gensler is also the author of the young adult novels The Dark Between and The Revenant. She grew up in a small Tennessee town and spent her early adulthood collecting impractical degrees from various Midwestern universities. A former high school English teacher, she now writes full-time in Oklahoma.
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Every character in the story has problems that he or she is working through. For Avery, it's learning to recognize and control her temper and coping with the fact that her brother is starting to leave her behind as he grows up. Julian's father is a famous country star, and the celebrity has made it hard for him to talk about his family's problems. Julian himself has several issues that he's learning to deal with through his films.
While Avery and Julian are researching the history of Hilliard House and the identity of the spirit haunting it, they uncover other long-hidden secrets, including a secret marriage, the truth behind the death of a seven year old girl, and an insane mother who may have passed her mental troubles on to her child. Each new twist adds a layer of creepiness to the story.
This middle-grade book will teach readers a lot about film by using examples from psychological horror classics like The Haunting (1963) and The Innocents to explain how the director's choice of camera angles, lighting, and shots can shape a movie. It's especially fitting because the story often uses similar techniques to tell its own spooky stories. Julian's excitement cinema is contagious and will encourage some kids to try making their own short films.
Other children might be inspired by Avery's research into the history of Hilliard House to learn more about their own family tree and local landmarks. Her tenacity to chase down the details of what happened in the past is admirable. As she matures Avery also learns to channel her creativity beyond pure imagination into storytelling.
GHOSTLIGHT by Sonia Gensler has a phenomenal setting, perfect for a young scary story. Gensler captures the Southern, small town atmosphere wonderfully, and the mysterious Hilliard House makes for an enjoyable and entertaining tale.
As exciting as the spooky moments in the story are, the depth of the family dynamics stole the show for me. Gensler explores several different types of relationships, from brother and sister to son and father to parent and grandparent. There are many serious undercurrent themes, such as when Avery feels a little lonely when her mother is too busy to give her attention and especially Julian’s complex relationship with his mother who has a mental illness. There is even a glimpse at the nuances between family members with different religious views, such as Avery’s mother and grandmother. Gensler incorporates all of these relationships and more smoothly, giving the reader plenty of room to think about the themes and ideas on his or her own.
As much as I do like this story, there are areas that are a bit slow and drag. In those areas, I found my attention easily diverting elsewhere, but this slower pacing at times definitely makes the unveiling of the big mystery richer and well worth the wait.
GHOSTLIGHT is a stellar, spooky story perfect for middle grade readers looking for a good Halloween time book. The complex family relationships take the story to a deep level, and the creepiness of the Hilliard House will keep readers highly entertained.