It’s Mad Martha with you today for a poetical look at a new release middle grade ghostly tale from Curiosity Quills – Remembering Kaylee Cooper by Christopher Francis. I only discovered after finishing the book that the author hails from my very own city of residence, so I had a moment of imagined comeraderie that he too was experiencing the ridiculous temperatures Brisbane turned on especially for the G20 summit…then I noticed that he no longer lives in Australia, so I silently cursed him for not sharing the ridiculous temperatures Brisbane turned on for the G20 summit. But weather gripes aside, let us examine Remembering Kaylee Cooper.
Kaylee Cooper is certain that Alex will become friends with a ghost this year. Alex thinks that he is far too old to be listening to a first grader and encourages Kaylee to stop jeopardizing his important sixth grade social life. Kaylee doesn’t listen and finds awkward ways to spend as much time with Alex as possible, even if it means following him into the boy’s washroom.
Fed up, Alex develops a strategic plan to ultimately help him get rid of Kaylee Cooper for good.
However, he soon learns about the mysterious legend of Screaming Ridge that pulls an unlikely group of friends together, including the girl of his dreams, and the school’s meanest bully. When they discover that the legend is real, and that Kaylee Cooper is at the core of the mystery, Alex stares death in the face and helps save her from an eternal life of misery and confusion.
Wouldn’t be seen dead
Hanging with a first-grade girl
Maybe vice versa
Oh the mixed feelings about this book! This is a quick, middle grade ghost story that is pitched at the perfect level for a young audience. There is just enough creepiness to satisfy those who enjoy a scare and just enough mystery for those who like a puzzle. Alex is a likeable protagonist and there is a palpable sense of comaraderie that develops between Alex’s classmates as the story progresses and the mystery deepens, which I particularly enjoyed. It gave the story a bit of life and energy and opened up a sense of adventure. The ghostly elements vary between being a bit predictable and hiding some unexpected twists and by the end I felt like everything had been wrapped up in a neat little package. Depending on whether you enjoy your ghost stories with loose ends tied up, this will be satisfying or not so much. I suspect though that middle grade readers will appreciate the resolution to the various puzzles that are presented in the story.
There was one inexplicable element to this tale that drove me nuts while I was reading and disrupted my ability to remain in the story world. For some strange reason, the author has given ridiculous surnames to all the teachers in the story, and alliterative names to most of the kids (but not all). The teachers were called Stoolpigeon, Humblewick, Allthumbs and Monobrow….really? Monobrow? The kids were called Damian Dermite, Madelyn Mayfeather, Henry Horkenminder…Why? For me, the use of unlikely names just gave the characters a silly, cartoonish feel when the plot seems to be aiming for an atmosphere of mystery and slight danger. This really affected my overall enjoyment of the book and I wish it hadn’t been the case.
This next bit is a bit spoilery, so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled!!
Another small niggle I had with the plot was the fact that Kaylee was supposed to have died in 1962, having been born in 1954. Why then, I wondered, was she described by more than one character as as being dressed as if she lived 100 years ago, in long dresses and leather boots with long stockings? This bit didn’t tally for me and as I’m a pedantic sort of a reader, caused me to be mildly cranky with the whole book.
Spoilery bit over – normal service resuming….NOW!
Putting aside my minor irritations, this is a solid ghost story that should appeal to fans of middle grade mystery of your acquaintance. There are a few elements in the plot that are fairly predictable, but also a few that come completely out of left field and add to the puzzle that Alex and his friends are trying to solve. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a light, fun read with a spooky twist.
Cheerio my dears,