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Book One: 43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You

by Kate Klise, Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Sandpiper: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

(paperback) 147 pages (artwork is cover to cover).

Ignatius B. Grumply moves into the Victorian mansion at 43 Old Cemetery Road hoping to find some peace and quiet so he can crack a wicked case of writer’s block. But 43 Old Cemetery Road is already occupied by eleven-year-old Seymour, his cat Shadow, and an irritable ghost named Olive….and they have no intention of sharing! ~back cover.

Dying to Meet You is told through letters, manuscripts, newspaper articles, documents, brochures, and drawings. I was a bit skeptical as to the how the author and illustrator were going to pull off a cohesive, coherent story with the format chosen. The daughter (whose book this is) read it first and reassured me. She was right. It was a very well done.

The content is more comedic than spooky; more humorous than haunted. It is also a bit heartwarming. Some of the interactions are quite sweet.

The characters are fantastically drawn (by both author and illustrator). They are also quite wonderfully named. I made a list, but due to length I’ll share my favorites.

Ignatious B. (I.B.) Grumply (children’s books author); Les Hope and Diane Hope (parents); Paige Turner (editor); E. Gadds (lawyer); Anita Sale (real estate agent); Kay Daver (grocer); M Balm (librarian); Fay Tality; Barry A. Lyve;  and Sammy Tarry.

While Ghastly, Illinois can be quite humorous, there is a bit of the dark there. Sure it has elements of creepiness, the strange “orphan,” a ghost, a decrepit Victorian. There are also a few horrors: child abandonment, incurring debt, and stealing books from the Library.

Never fear, there are solutions.

Seymour would not let his parent’s abandonment get him down. While his letter to his parents near the end of the book seemed plausible to the 10 year old daughter, it was a bit thin to my 30-something self (138). But alas, Seymour Hope did see more hope and is in a better situation. The debt has been repaid (via creative book sales). And as reminded by the Ghastly Public Library advertisement in the local newspaper there are “Free Books for those with a Library Card” (102).

Dying to Meet You is a light read, easily consumed, but is by no means frivolous. The unusual format of this book is important to the story. Though Olive doesn’t seem to mind being unusual, she did die unpublished and felt, therefore, unresolved. But, alas, she was ahead of her time, and her risks were not rewarded. She wrote graphic mysteries (24).  The present date of the book is her time, and her unsusual approach is successful and inspiring. Daring is eventually rewarded, through self-fulfillment (completed project and no longer stymied) and publications (and even monetary gain—which is an iffy message there).

What about life is usual—except that is, as usual, unusual? Inspiration abounds, and Grumply finds inspiration where he least desires it. The book is an encouragement to young Readers who would be Writers. Write what you see/learn, love what you do, take a few risks and never ever give up.

I’m looking forward to what Klise and Klise are going to do with the second and third installment:  Over My Dead Body (2009), and Till Death Do Us Bark(2011).

***

The author/illustrator duo’s site.

I’m not much into the YouTube videos that accompany books, but this one is pretty nice. if interested.

target group is 8-12.. to enjoy the humor and the conflicts: 8 and up is reasonable.

 

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