Monday, October 25, 2021

Ophie's Ghosts - Justina Ireland


Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Dread Nation makes her middle grade debut with a sweeping tale of the ghosts of our past that won't stay buried, starring an unforgettable girl named Ophie.

Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But that was before the night in November 1922, and the cruel act that took her home and her father from her. Which was the same night that Ophie learned she can see ghosts.

Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh with relatives they barely know. In the hopes of earning enough money to get their own place, Mama has gotten Ophie a job as a maid in the same old manor house where she works.

Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past--and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help--even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I love a good Halloween-season book (but I like a good spooky book at any time, really). This is just such a book, and as a bonus, it’s a JFic book so you can read it with your kids and scare them as well! Bonus!

I thought this was a really fun book. A few things I loved:

· The subject matter was interesting and had a great atmospheric vibe. It wasn’t super creepy all the time, so as to scare off young readers completely, but it definitely allows for a ghostly atmosphere that sets the scene and enhances the story.

· I really enjoyed the historical aspect of this novel. Although this book doesn’t take place during slavery, it does discuss the plight of Black people who are forced to take jobs that, although not slavery, pay very little and keep them indentured in a way that definitely echoes slavery not only because they’re doing the same jobs that slaves would have done, but also in that it is very difficult to get ahead and “move up,” so to speak, in the world.

· The story was interesting, and there were a lot of parts to it. It was a good little mystery, and although it seemed fairly obvious to me in some parts, I understand that I am not the target audience. My children would have been surprised, I think, and if they weren’t, I think they would have felt clever to have figured it out.

· The writing was good. The characters faced real life problems, and the main character, Ophie, allowed us to experience even characters who have passed on in a more nuanced manner, understanding that people are not only good or only evil.

· As with many good children’s books, this book gives space for some difficult discussions about tricky subjects. I love that children’s books don’t shy away from difficult things, teaching readers in a way that they understand and are able to internalize.

This was a fairly long read for a JFic book, and I appreciated that. The reading made it approachable, and I’m glad that Ireland allowed enough length in her book to address a complex story and let it move naturally. It didn’t seem long or overly verbose, but it did address a lot of things and have a fairly complex story. I enjoyed it.

I think this is a great read for all the time, but especially for the Halloween season. If you like JFic, you should definitely check this out. If you have kids that like spooky books and are JFic readers, I highly recommend it for them as well!

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This is a murder mystery, but there are no explicit details of the murder (although I knew what had happened). There is one swear word, “damn,” at the very end, said by Ophie’s mother, and I’m assuming that many children have heard their mothers say such a thing. And possibly worse. 😉

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