________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 17 . . . . April 25, 2003


TJ and the Haunted House. (An Orca Young Reader).

Hazel Hutchins.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2003.
104 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 1-55143-262-5.

Subject Heading:
Haunted houses-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Liz Greenaway.

***½ /4


Scrabble, scrabble, scrabble,
Three in the morning.
Scrabble, scrabble, scrabble.

I hate noises at three in the morning. Noises at three in the morning drive me nuts. Especially when I live in a house with a ghost story. I reached for the kittens on my chest. One kitten... T-Rex from the shortness of its fur. Two.. two... No two kitten! Where was Alaska?

A cold trickle of sweat ran down my neck. I couldn't help it. By daylight it's easy to ignore Seymour and his "the ghost did it" theories, but at three in the morning the whole world changes. I had to find Alaska. I picked up T-Rex and set him on the covers. I climbed out of bed. I snuck down the hall. Slowly. Quietly. Why was I moving slowly and quietly? If it was a ghost, didn't I want to scar it away? But that's not how my brain thinks at three in the morning. At three in the morning all my brain can think is, don't let it know I'm here, don't let it know I'm here.

TJ and the Haunted House is an “Orca Young Reader” novel written by prolific children's author Hazel Hutchins. While the novel picks up where TJ and the Cats left off, it could easily stand alone. With limited vocabulary, a plot driven story and short chapters, TJ and the Haunted House is a perfect read for those fairly new to chapter books.

     In the first book, TJ catsits for his grandma with calamitous results. In this book, he is dealing with being the new owner of two rowdy kittens, T-Rex and Alaska. As well, his class decides to turn TJ's house into a haunted house as a fund-raiser. They plan vats full of peeled grapes to imitate eyeballs and suspended sheets. Only, it's looking more and more like TJ's house may actually be haunted. Grandma remembers her mother talking of a mysterious sighting of an old prospector who lived in what is now the spare room in TJ's house. Thinking about a real-live ghost is more than TJ wants to do, but his friend Seymour is delighted and runs with it -- taking books out of the library to learn more about ghosts. To top it all off, TJ's dad is starting to hint that he'd like TJ to take over the family hardware store.

     As with the first book, the resolution is predictable but satisfying. The school fund-raiser is a huge success, and TJ resolves the mystery of the prospector. TJ is very likable, displaying much humour and a healthy skepticism of the world and especially adults around him in a way that should engage most seven-year-old readers.

     A terrific addition to any home or school library. The copyright page notes that a free teachers guide is available for classroom use while a bibliography of further ghost-related reference books ("titles from Seymour's bag of books") is included in the back of the book.

Highly Recommended.

Liz Greenaway has worked in bookselling and publishing and currently lives in Edmonton, AB.

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

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