Saturday, January 3, 2009

Steinbeck's Ghost

STEINBECK'S GHOST; Lewis Buzbee; New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2008. 340pgs. Fiction.

This is an odd little book because it doesn't seem like it would be good, but it is. Travis and his family have moved from their comfortable older neighborhood in Salinas, California, to Bella Linda Terrace, a new housing development with cookie cutter domiciles and no grass or trees. Travis hates it. And he hates even more that his parents are rarely ever home because they are working long hours to pay for the new house he can't stand anyway. By and by he finds some comfort in a familiar place, the Salinas Public Library where his old pals Madeleine L'Engle, Ray Bradbury, and John Steinbeck populate the shelves. Soon mysterious things begin to happen: Travis sees someone writing in the upstairs room of the John Steinbeck House and museum; an elderly Mexican man shouts at Travis that he is Gitano and has come back. On the hillside, Travis sees The Watchers. In the midst of these mysteries, the City Council votes to shut down the Salinas Library and soon Travis is working with others to save the library and to figure out what Steinbeck's ghost wants him to do. Buzbee makes no bones about his distaste for modern video-gaming culture--this book is all about books and conversation, friendships and outdoor activity. Steinbeck's Ghost is a bit of a slow mover
by modern standards, and kids may not take to it, particularly since most will not be
familiar with the Steinbeck canon, but I couldn't put it down. Go figure.

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