How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen

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How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Eleven-year-old Donald is a bit of a loser, but he does have one skill: he can see ghosts. Lots of them, everywhere. A funny, scary and utterly convincing story.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 240 Date: May 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781407148755

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Everybody knows if you have a special gift like seeing through walls or the ability to speak giraffe you have to keep it secret. If you don't, men in dark suits and wrap-around shades take you away to experiment on you. (And if it's the wall thing, girls will assume you're spying on them when they get changed for PE and beat you up.)

Donald's different, though: the kids and teachers at his school just think, if they notice him at all, that he's a complete loser. He's only ever had one Certificate of Achievement in his whole life, and that's because everyone in his class got one. His very clever and not-really-a-best-friend-cos-she's-a-girl Merry knows the truth, though. Donald really can see and talk to ghosts. In fact, when she's with him she can sometimes catch a glimpse of them too. Donald likes the fact that there's at least one person his age who doesn't think he's a total weirdo.

What's more his mum actually works as a medium, though to be absolutely honest she's so short-sighted she can't see her own feet, never mind people of the see-through persuasion. Donald's a kind lad, and he doesn't want to hurt her feelings, so he lets her do all the mumbo-jumbo stuff when she's called to a haunting, then he takes the phantom aside, has a quick chat about what's troubling it, and quietly sorts everything out. He's never actually been scared of ghosts. He pops into his dead dad's old house two or three times a week, and they listen to records together and chat about school. Donald loves these times: he never stutters or says his words wrong when he's there, and he can't imagine how he'd cope if his dad ever sorted out whatever is holding him on this plane and faded away forever. But suddenly things start to change. A new creature has appeared, something huge and monstrous and vicious, and Donald's not sure he's going to be able to handle things. Worse still, there are definite signs that someone close to him is in deadly danger.

Ally Kennen can always be relied on to tell a good story. She sets her plots in the real world, with characters who are just like people you know, then she adds something a bit bizarre, a bit out of the ordinary. She's so subtle about it, though, that before you know it you find yourself believing all sorts of mad stuff and going along with the story as if it really could happen. Her secret weapon is a dark, sly humour that includes you in the joke and makes you want to keep reading. In this book it has a slightly silly, elbow-in-the-ribs style and she's not afraid to make side remarks directly to the reader, commenting on things as varied as what flavour Monday is, and whether ghosts get flu. Want to know if they do? Well tough - you'll just have to read the book, and Bookbag strongly recommends that you do so. Go on, what are you waiting for?

Ally Kennen writes books for teens and confident readers. For the younger end of the age range Bookbag recommends Midnight Pirates. If you enjoy spooky stories (Duh! You wouldn't have read this far if you didn't, now would you?) you could also try Out of the Depths by Cathy MacPhail. And if you fancy seeing things from the ghost's point of view, Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson is the book for you. A bunch of rather pathetic ghosts want to learn how to properly frighten people to death, but some of the humans they meet are way nastier than they could ever be! Scary, hilarious and sad all at once. You might also appreciate Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer and Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help by Douglas Anthony Cooper.

Booklists.jpg How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2015.

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Buy How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen at


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