The story is set in turn of the century Bluff City, Missouri. Alexander Armsworth, a young boy from a well-to-do local family, discovers, to his complete dismay, that he can see ghosts: one ghost in particular—a girl with a mysterious story. He hates this and goes into full-blown early-onset male denial. Another problem for Alexander is Blossom Culp, a seventh-grade classmate of his from Horace Mann Elementary, who says she wants to help. More specifically, Blossom has been directed to help him by her gypsy mother who has “the sight.” Alexander is not about it. He wants nothing to do with ghosts and even less to do with Blossom, who lives in a shack on the wrong side of the tracks with her alcoholic mother (Alexander is kind of a prig, but apparently I dig that). The two of them discover the secret of Inez, the dead girl, and embark on a mission to return her body to her home in New Orleans.
Why I Loved It:
I was probably 8 or 9 when I read this book, so I was at the younger end of the target age group. It was spooky without being too scary, and it had just a touch of boy-girl stuff between rich boy Alexander Armsworth who is both scared and exasperated by his ability to see ghosts and scruffy, spunky Blossom Culp who lives on the wrong side of the tracks with her drunkard mother. Bluff City, Missouri, in 1913 was as fascinating to me as another planet. Ghosts, adventure, and daring tweens—all my favorite ingredients for a great story. Alexander was one of my very first literary crushes, and to this day, Blossom is among my favorite kid-lit heroines of all time. I believe she and Hermione Granger would rule the universe.
And here’s the deal: We are all Alexander Armsworth. We all have ghosts we would rather not know about, let alone deal with. At 13 (and that 13-year-old lives perpetually inside us), we want nothing more than to fit in and be accepted, and we struggle with the parts of ourselves that are different and weird. But also? We are all Blossom Culp. Some weird just cannot be hidden, and that’s not only okay, it’s pretty awesome. Blossom is the voice that says what we’d rather not admit. She’s the part of us that demands acknowledgment. She’s the awkward truth we’ve always known.
Paul Zindel, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, Zilpha Keatly Snyder
Why it stands the test of time:
It deals with universal issues of belonging and friendship, and because it is set in the early 1900s, the story has a timeless feel. I will definitely give this one to my daughter.
Copies are available at Alibris starting from 99 cents.
Did you have a blanket fort book that dealt with the supernatural? What was it?