Children’s Fiction Reviews: The Ghost Road & Louisiana’s Way Home
Let’s take a look at two children’s fiction titles I’ve had the pleasure of reading: The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter and Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo- a pretty incredible duo of acclaimed authors! Thank you to the lovely folks at Tundra Books, Candlewick Press, and Penguin Random House Canada!
“Don’t you see? It means you can see ghosts. It means you have the Sight.”
If you are familiar with the work of Charis Cotter, the award-winning Canadian author behind The Swallow: A Ghost Story and The Painting, then you know you are in for a magical, unexpected, and unearthly treat. The author’s latest, The Ghost Road, is a sumptuous, evocative middle grade title- with dives into the fantastical- that takes place over the summer in the small community of Buckle, Newfoundland. Ruth and her cousin Ruby- who have never met before- are both staying at their Aunt Doll’s home in Buckle; Ruth an absolute stranger to her mother’s side of the family, while Ruby has long been a part of her maternal, Newfoundland side of the family. When Ruth and Ruby meet face-to-face, it is a shock: they are the spit of one another… unnervingly identical. And, even more strangely and tragically, Ruth’s and Ruby’s mothers both passed away when the girls were two years old. As the two girls immediately take to each other, bonding over their peculiar similarities, Ruby fills Ruth in on their shared family history, and the two launch into a complex study of one terrifying aspect of their family’s history and lineage: not only that twin girls run in the family but also that the sets of twins always perish as young women, leaving their own children motherless. Melding together lore and a supernatural gift called the Sight (bestowed upon Ruth), Cotter weaves an impressively composite tale, blending elements of magic, of unearthly creatures, of the supernatural, and a centuries old tragic- cursed– family history that is slowly but surely brought to the surface (…think along the lines of a middle grade Kate Morton, with ghosts and hints of fae!). Beautiful, lush, and often melancholy, with more than a few moments of surprise, fright, and intensity, readers on the search for a ghostly time-weaving tale, or who enjoy the work of authors such as Kate Milford and Polly Horvath, might especially adore The Ghost Road.
I received a copy of The Ghost Road courtesy of Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.
“I was jealous of that cow because she was home and I was not. It seemed like a very sad thing to be jealous of a fake cow on the side of a truck. I must warn you that a great deal of this story is extremely sad.”
Louisiana’s Way Home, by two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo, centers around Louisiana Elefante, a character who readers were first introduced to in Raymie Nightingale. In Louisiana’s Way Home, Louisiana gets the chance to narrate her own story, a gorgeous, heart-rending, and beautiful story. As the novel begins, Louisiana lets readers know that she is “going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known…”, and opens with her Granny waking her up during the night, telling her the reckoning is coming, and driving them over the Florida line into Georgia- far away from Louisiana’s two best friends, Raymie Nightingale and Beverly Tapinski, and her cat, Archie. While Louisiana is used to her Granny’s “middle-of-the-night-ideas”, this time things are different…scarier; she no longer trusts her grandmother and is afraid for them both. As Louisiana and Granny drive into Richford, Georgia, matters become even more difficult and seemingly hopeless. Staying at the Good Night, Sleep Tight motel while penniless, a serious dental emergency renders Granny bedridden, and Louisiana having to rely on her wits and tenacity (and a special musical gift) to get by. She also becomes friends with a similarly aged boy in the town named Burke Allen, his crow Clarence, and Burke’s entire, magnificent, welcoming family. When a sudden, heavy, and heartbreaking turn in the story involving Granny leaves our protagonist almost entirely undone, it seems as though Louisiana’s dream of returning home is shattered. Without giving away any spoilers here, I will say that another (gentler) swerve in the story leads readers down a trail of a different kind of unexpected. DiCamillo’s writing is flawless and reads so effortlessly; every word in Louisiana’s profoundly affecting story seems to matter and engages, and Louisiana’s story simply flies. As in previous novels, DiCamillo masters the line here between loss and hope, and pain and possibility so beautifully that it makes the heart ache. A novel perfect for readers who have fallen in love with DiCamillo’s novels and/or Raymie Nightingale, or those who enjoy the work of authors such as Jason Reynolds, Erin Entrada Kelly, Leslie Connor, or Rita Williams-Garcia. Note: Look forward to Beverly, Right Here, a novel centered on Raymie and Louisiana’s best friend Beverly Tapinski, anticipated for publication in September of 2019!
I received a copy of Louisiana’s Way Home courtesy of Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.