Southwest Children's  Literature

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Ghost Fever/Mal de fantasma


Have you ever felt the tiny hairs on the back of your neck raise for no apparent reason? Or have you ever been alone in a room or a house and heard unexplained noises or suddenly felt as if you were being watched? Have you ever become suddenly chilled when previously you had been comfortable? Do you believe in ghosts? What would you do if your parents or guardians decided to move into a haunted house and you had no say in the matter?

When fourteen-year-old Elena moves to a dusty small town in southern Arizona with her father and younger sister, she must face her fears and live in a haunted house. Everybody knows the house is haunted; that's why it has been abandoned.

"You could ask anyone in that part of town about the house and they would tell you, 'Es una casa embrujada. Hay un anima que anda penando en esa casa.' They would tell you it was haunted, that there was a soul suffering in that house (p. 8)."

That didn't stop a local businessman from purchasing the house in hopes of renting it. No one will live there . . . no one until Frank Padilla, Elena's father, hears of it. Frank doesn't believe in ghosts and the landlord is offering six months free rent. It seems like a good deal to Frank.

Elena wants to support her father but is anxious about moving into a haunted house. Luckily her grandmother has some knowledge of ghosts, which she shares with her granddaughter. Elena tries to follow her grandmother's advice, but something goes wrong and suddenly Elena is very sick with a bad fever. Did Elena see a ghost? How did Elena get sick? And how will she get well again? Read this skin prickling story to find out.

Ghost Fever is a bilingual English-Spanish book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, especially 'tweens and young adults. Mona Pennypacker's detailed pencil drawings help illustrate the story, but may be frightening to younger readers. While some readers crave thrilling ghost stories all year round, Ghost Fever is a particularly good read for Halloween, El día de los muertos, and Samhain, a Celtic festival.

Educators can make curriculum connections to readers' cultural and personal beliefs around ghosts and the afterlife. Additionally, readers could explore and discuss holidays and celebrations related to the spirits of the dead, such as El día de los muertos. There are two additional books reviewed on this site to support such a study: Pablo Remembers The Feast of the Day of the Dead by George Ancona and The Festival of Bones: El festival de las calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book of Day of the Dead by Luis San Vincent.

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