In Walhachin for a stay with his Aunty Maggie and six-year-old cousin, young Kean is still mighty glad to be away since a guy named Jerry has begun claiming all of his mother’s attention. The summer is palpably hot and Walhachin is tiny nothing of a town–little more than the post office/store where his aunt works and a far cry from his happening home town of Seattle.
THE GHOST OF WALHACHIN by Ramona Nehring-Silver has a wonderful twist: its ghost is not scary. Instead, Sam is a boy who died in 1912 and has been trapped in this world ever since, until discovered and befriended by Kean, who is willing to do what it takes to help Sam get unstuck…even if that means traveling back in time. Now if only he can locate the satchel necessary for his new buddy to travel home, while not getting stuck in the past himself. The funny thing is, back when Sam was alive in Walhachin, it wasn’t such a sleepy little town. People wealthy from flourishing apple orchards were patronizing hotels, livery stables, bakeries and butcher shops, real estate and newspaper offices. Upon his first trip back in time, Kean can hardly believe his eyes. This particular concept of time travel is unique and well thought out, especially the scenes where Kean tries to acclimate to being a ghost in Sam’s past–floating along on smoky limbs without being able to feel things like his feet on the ground.
The text for this children’s novel is appropriate for middle readers, and is illustrated with ink drawings that marvelously help bring the storyline to life. Best of all are subtle kid-savvy touches, such as children being sure not to miss any sprinklers as they head from point A to point B in the sizzling summer heat. Readers and educators looking for racial diversity won’t find much in this book, and there are a few weak spots, including too conveniently summarized ‘on-the-nose’ life lessons, such as Sam educating Kean on how he should feel about his mother having a new husband (the aforementioned Jerry). But mostly this story of various kinds of friendship rings gentle and true.
Compared to contemporary children’s literature, which can sometimes seem overly prone to harsh realities, THE GHOST OF WALHACHIN–with its sociable ghost and its intergenerational friendships– is a welcome change of pace.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader