________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005


Animal Phantoms: True Ghost Stories.

Barbara Smith.
Edmonton, AB: Ghost House Books (Distributed by Lone Pine Publishing), 2004.
143 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-894877-52-7.

Subject Heading:
Animal Ghosts-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Reviewer by Meredith MacKeen.

**** /4



When 11-year-old Michael Tandy heard that his entire family was moving to England from Ireland, he was not impressed. ........ "It'll be great, Mike," his father said. "I'll be home every day for lunch because we'll be living in a big old house right on the school grounds."

Yeah, right, Michael thought with a heavy heart. If anything could possibly be lamer than being a teacher's son, it had to be living in a school yard. Even though he didn't say anything, at that very moment Mike had a sudden sinking feeling. Little did he know how deadly accurate that sensation would turn out to be. (Page 9)

Just like the last time, not a drop of water had spilled out of the tank. Worse, the fish were swimming frantically about at a speed easily three times their normal rate. The Tandys silently made their way to the living room. When they reached the doorway, a cold draft whooshed past them. The three turned to flee from the room, but they were trapped. There, just in front of them, stood the smoky apparition of the nasty old man. The horrible ghost must somehow have attached himself to the fish tank and followed them back to Ireland. Michael's aquarium had become a haunted house for fish! (Page 22)


Barbara Smith has written a collection of 14 ghost stories where the phantoms are connected to animals, often beloved pets. No one is actually hurt here, but certainly people are frightened. Subject matter includes a mysterious aquarium that seems haunted and causes the fish to move abnormally fast at times: a teenage hunter who takes shot at a phantom deer, ghost birds living high in the mountains that terrorize a group of hikers, and a dog, Laddie, whose ghost continued to protect Elizabeth and her father all through her school years. The author's great regard for animals is evident in all the tales and adds to their appeal.

     The stories are well written and require that the reader has a sufficient level of comprehension to notice the details that knit the plot together. These stories, which are set in England or the United States and sound contemporary, tackle issues such as bullying, fear of moving to a new location, and renting apartments. A list of sources used for inspiration includes books published between 1965 and 2000 and issues of Fate Magazine from 1956-1972. As the interest in ghosts, poltergeists, the paranormal and psychics, as well as pets, is unending for the upper elementary students, these stories will appeal. Besides their subject matter, the author's claim that she is merely retelling what happened makes the stories all the more spooky.

Highly Recommended.

Meredith MacKeen is a teacher-librarian at Glen Stewart Elementary Stratford in Charlottetown, PE.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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