Review: The Ministry of Ghosts by Alex Shearer
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Sky Pony Press, imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Thank you!
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Sky Pony Press
Verdict: Very Good/Excellent
When they ring the bell at the house with the dusty windows and tarnished nameplate to inquire about the advertised “Saturday Person,” Thruppence and Tim don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. A Saturday job sounds ideal! But had that nameplate been properly cleaned, Thruppence and Tim might not have been so keen to enter . . .
Pressured by the stern Minister Beeston from the Department of Economies, the Ministry of Ghosts has been given three months to prove the existence or nonexistence of ghosts, or else it will be shut down! As it seems that children are particularly magnetic to ghosts and supernatural beings, Thruppence and Tim are hired to join the ministry’s ghost-catching team. And although neither of them is scared by talk of ghosts or monsters, they are unprepared for what they’re about discover!
Filled with fun, humor, and twists and turns, this is the perfect book for anyone who loved Harry Potter and who is looking for something similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book—just not quite as scary.
There is just something so wonderful about totally unexpected and delightful bookish discoveries! Reading like something you might get if you crossed J.K. Rowling with Roald Dahl and Norton Juster, Alex Shearer’s middle grade novel The Ministry of Ghosts is a deliciously fun, word-loving, playful and ultimately touching story.
As I starting diving in to The Ministry of Ghosts, I was immediately taken in by the Shearer’s diction, whip-smart omnipresent narrative voice, and overall style. This is the kind of writing that takes its audience age seriously: i.e. Shearer assumes a standard of sophisticated writing that understands that middle grade readers (or whoever else will read this!) are a bright and quick bunch.
As promised in the book description, The Ministry of Ghosts is indeed being investigated by a rather pompous and barking man in the Department of Economies named (rather appropriately) Mr. Beeston. Outraged that the Ministry has supposedly been operating for around two hundred years without a ghost to show as evidence of their supposed ‘work’, he visits the dilapidated Ministry office and gives them an ultimatum: find a ghost or face shut-down! This is where the (brilliantly named) local school children Thruppence Coddley and Tim Legge come in. Looking for an opportunity to make extra money and have some dangerous fun, they are hired by the very elderly head of the Ministry of Ghosts to capture a ghost (or two) and prove Mr. Beeston wrong. In some surprising and some more telling turns of events, the very brave, strawberry-smelling Thruppence and the hesitant but loyal Tim work as hard as they can to help their newly-made friends in the Ministry keep their jobs. What befalls Mr. Beeston as he is finally confronted with the truth about ghosts and the work of the Ministry of Ghosts is wonderful, and the last few pages provide solid satisfaction in following up with our great characters.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Ministry of Ghosts and would definitely recommend it to readers looking for a not-so-spooky, very clever ghost-centered read. Readers who enjoy the work of the authors I mentioned above, as well as the work of writers such as Trenton Lee Stewart, Ursula Verson, Sally Gardner, Neil Gaiman or Lauren Child, might especially adore this terrifically funny and unusual story. I hope that this gem of a story finds a loving audience out there!
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.