Better Babysitting through Ghost Stories: Spooky Fun for Halloween

BookendsCindy: The Brothers Grimm knew that storytelling was good for teaching children to behave—if only they had also whipped up treats like granghoula bars, or peppermint bone rattlers, they’d have really had a captive audience. In Glen Huser’s The Elevator Ghost (2014), Caroline Giddle is a new resident at Blatchford Arms who offers her babysitting services to the struggling parents in the building. The book takes us through a year of babysitting adventures as Ms. Giddle works her magic, correcting behavior by telling ghost stories.

Every parent yearns for someone like Caroline—
a blend of Mary Poppins and Donald Davis!

Elevator GhostTwins Dwight and Dwayne “don’t need no babysitter,” but they get one anyway. This is not Ms. Giddle’s first rodeo, and she doesn’t fall prey to their tricks. When they sneak a dash of Louisiana hot sauce into her soup, she tastes it, then takes the cap off and dumps in the whole bottle. After several failed attempts to best her they finally sit down for a story that also provides a lesson about the pitfalls of being a prankster. Ms. Giddle tells a modern variation of “Give Me Back My Bone” or “Tailypo” that features a medical-model skeleton searching for its missing foot, which has been taken by two young hooligans. After each night of gentle child-rearing via ghost stories Caroline Giddle retires to the sun room with her tea to visit with a ghostly friend or two, and eventually they encourage her to rekindle a ghostly romance from her past. The short chapters and moderately scary stories will make great read-aloud sessions. Kids will also have fun making connections to traditional tales from the popular Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections and to popular horror culture. Huser gives some clues to Caroline Giddle’s inspiration in the afterward to help them out. This will be perfect fun for Halloween.

Lynn:  Where was Caroline Giddle when MY children were small? Every parent yearns for someone like Caroline—a blend of Mary Poppins and Donald Davis! (And she can bake, too.) Cindy is absolutely right: this funny and engaging book is perfectly suited for young readers just embracing chapter books. It is scary, but not too scary, and shouldn’t give anyone nightmares, especially as there are as many good ghosts as creepy ones.  There are plenty of chuckles here, too. Huser clearly understands what will tickle a child’s funny bone AND send a shiver down their spine at the same time. Another plus—the perennial fascination kids have with stories of other children behaving badly. Caroline Giddle has their number—and ours.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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