Review: A Festival of Ghosts

“School buses disgorged students at the front entrance. Rosa and Jasper kept to the very back of the crowd, and the crowd moved to keep well clear of them. No one wanted to be knocked over by the inhospitable door.” page 173

A Festival of Ghosts (Ingot #2) by William Alexander, illustrated by Kelly Murphy.
Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2018, my paperback edition 2019.
MG fantasy, 264 pages plus excerpt.
Lexile: 610L .
AR Level: 4.5 (worth 6.0 points) .
NOTE: This book is a direct sequel to A Properly Unhaunted Place and this review will contain major spoilers for that novel.
FURTHER NOTE: Pictures on this review are part of the pink posts.

The continuing adventures of Rosa Diaz, from a family of librarians who specialize in ghost appeasement, and Jasper Chevalier, native to the unhaunted town of Ingot and the son of two Renaissance Faire leaders.

A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexander, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

We enjoyed the previous book, so I was happy to continue this story, although it wasn’t immediately obvious where this one would go. After all, I felt the previous book worked well as a stand alone novel. However there was one thread left unteased, and of course that was pulled in to this new story, along with a number of new problems.

We also get to see the consequences of the town now being haunted by ghosts again, which means Rosa and her mom are really, really busy all of the time. So Rosa’s understandably shocked when her mother tells her that she’s going to school. After all, she’s never gone to school before, always trusting in the library to learn what she needs to know. And her mom needs her help since the wards came down, right?

Turns out that is exactly what her mom has in mind. Education is just a side benefit – Rosa’s real work will be keeping the school safe for students, educating the staff on ghost appeasement, and listening for rumors of unusual hauntings, since some of the townspeople still blame her and her mom for the events of last summer and don’t want to admit that ghosts exist in their town. The story takes place mainly from September through November after the events of the previous book, with around ten chapters each for those months, and then a concluding chapter in December. It is a perfect fall read.

Teachers are facing some new and unusual problems on pages 48-49 of A Festival of Ghosts.

Seeing how all the inhabitants of the town react differently to the major change in their home was an unexpectedly fascinating part of the story. We see a few characters get their comeuppance, and then Alexander takes it even farther and draws on our empathy to show the human side of every character, even the ones we love to hate. I have been consistently pleasantly surprised through these two books at how well Alexander develops his setting and minor characters. Rosa’s conversation with Humphrey Talcott in chapter thirteen struck me as particularly valuable advice for readers of any age.

Don’t worry, Jasper’s in this too, although his role is understandably less dramatic. After the ghosts invaded the town, his parents just lost their entire livelihood and purpose. Because guess what? Their ren faires not only have been producing some unique ghosts, they’ve also been conducting them on the side of a mining disaster… so humans are decidedly not welcome there anymore, AND the two forms of ghosts are at war, AND Jasper’s tortoise is missing. He’s understandably upset, but also reluctant to take help.

I was surprised by Alexander’s decision to have Rosa and Jasper primarily working on separate problems, since they were such an excellent team in the last book. However, exploring each of their stories separately still led to an interesting development of events. The plot got murky at times, but still managed to surprise me here and there.

Kelly Murphy once again does well illustrating. Aside from the cover and frontispiece, full page illustrations scattered throughout are well chosen and clearly show that she’s read the book. The story doesn’t necessarily need illustrations but here they complement the story without detracting from it. Interestingly, this book does not have large illustrated chapter headers, instead using a simple repeating leaf motif with the number of each chapter.

Jasper and Rosa take on separate tasks on page 12 of A Festival of Ghosts.

Regular readers will know that I take a special interest in Deaf books.  It’s a bit of a spoiler to share this but events occur that make some characters unable to use language – speech, reading and writing.  One character, who is not Deaf but is fluent in ASL, tries to sign and cannot.  This simple, unexpected validation of ASL as a language in a book focused on entirely different points was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had as a reader and cemented my status as a fan of William Alexander!

I will be looking into more of his books. He seems to focus on duologies, so I don’t have much hope for more Ingot stories, but we definitely would like to read more about Rosa and Jasper! Recommended.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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