Review of Ophie's Ghosts

Ophie’s Ghosts
by Justina Ireland
Intermediate, Middle School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    336 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-06-291589-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-291585-6    $9.99

“When she was twelve, Ophelia Harrison saw her first ghost” — that of her father. Having been lynched for voting as a Black man in 1920s Georgia, he appears to Ophie and warns her and her mother away before the murderers arrive to burn down their house. They flee to Pittsburgh, where Mrs. Harrison finds a job as a domestic worker for the affluent white Caruthers family, occupants of Daffodil Manor. Ophie reluctantly leaves school when a housemaid position opens up (they need the extra money to move out of Aunt Rose’s house, which is already crowded with mean-tempered cousins). Ophie soon realizes that Daffodil Manor is haunted by many ghosts, including a young woman named Clara, who can’t remember how she died. When Ophie attempts to solve the mystery of Clara’s demise, she unwittingly uncovers a horrifying Caruthers family secret stemming from a legacy of slavery and oppression. Ireland’s (Dread Nation, rev. 5/18) first middle-grade novel thoughtfully explores issues of race, privilege, and historical injustice, while also being a well-paced and shivery supernatural page-turner. Fans of The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh, and Doll Bones (rev. 7/13) by Holly Black will enjoy this suspenseful and multilayered read.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan
Jennifer Hubert Swan is director of library services and middle school librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She is also a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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