Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter

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Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter

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Buy Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: It promises on the blurb to grip you from the first page, and it delivers. An easy, entertaining read that will spook you and make you laugh on the same page.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC Date: July 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747585008

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When Courtney, Orion and Ming sneak into the Carville library after hours to read from a spell book, none of them really think they are doing anything but scaring themselves. But The Compleat Necromancer isn't a joke book, and soon after they read the spell, ghosts start appearing, trapped in the pages of certain books.

The ghosts have been brought over in the books from the tropical island Prithvideep, also known as Ilhas dos Fantasmas, where they once coexisted with the living. Then scientist Hezekiah Osgood came to the island eighty years ago with his family to study the phenomenon, and discovered a way to trap the spirits with a camera. The Great Vanishing of 1932 saw all the ghosts disappear from the island, and in the years since they have become nothing more than legends to people outside of the Ilhas dos Fantasmas.

But as the children discover, the ghosts are real. Between struggling against dreadful teacher Mrs Hokum, who wants all children to have positive attitudes, and believes books that don't have happy endings should be burned, and struggling to understand the language of the ghosts, Courtney, Orion, Ming and Mrs Parker, the librarian, set about trying to find a way to release the ghosts from the books, and restore them to the island where they once lived in peace.

This is a hugely fun spooky story. It promises on the blurb to grip you from the first page, and it delivers. Filled with amusing observations on the very normal sides of life (such as the way photocopiers all seem to have some sort of temperamental gremlin inside them) alongside stories about the ghosts, from their often grizzly deaths, to the lives they lived afterwards, Stephen Alter writes skillfully about both the supernatural and the natural. I particularly liked how it switched to present tense to tell the stories of the ghosts – it was a neat touch to convey the timelessness of their 'life'.

Island of the Phantoms is one of those books that is very interactive. The story is not simply told, but includes letters, diary entries, school work by the children and extracts from the many books the ghosts are trapped in. While I sometimes find this sort of writing detracts from the story and makes reading books hard work, in Island of the Phantoms this isn't true at all. Alter has a good sense of humour, and he knows the minds of children – many of the snippets written in the voices of Courtney, Ming and Orion really made me laugh.

Island of the Phantoms will probably be demolished by many kids in the 8-12 age range, particularly those who like tales of a supernatural nature. It's an easy, entertaining read that will spook you and make you laugh on the same page. Great stuff.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

Kids who like stories with ghosts might also enjoy Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln and The Last Ghost: A Belladonna Johnson Adventure by Helen Stringer.

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Buy Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Island of the Phantoms by Stephen Alter at Amazon.com.

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