I've had my eye on Kate and Sarah Klise's 43 Cemetery Road series for years now. In fact, I started writing this review almost three years ago. It took summer vacation and a reading challenge (ie: bribery scheme) and my youngest being just the right age to enjoy these fantastic books for me to sit down and finish writing this review. Happily, in the intervening years, the Klise sisters have written three more books in the series with book 6, Greetings from the Graveyard, due out in April of 2014 and the first four books in the series are available in paperback! The 43 Cemetery Road are truly a unique treat. They are a great step up from chapter books like The Magic Tree House and Junie B Jones, and infinitely more creative and fun. While the titles and setting for this series are spooky and potentially creepy, the Klises aptly describe these books as a "giggly" ghost stories and they go above and beyond packing them to the brim with humor, starting with the hilarious names of the characters which MUST be read out loud. Seriously, insist that your kids read these names out loud at the start of each book (which conveniently begins with a character gallery) to make sure your kids get the joke. And for a good laugh. Ignatius B. Grumply, Olive C. Spence and Seymour Hope are the protagonists in the series, with supporting characters (who have names that match their jobs) like the realtor, Anita Sale and the publisher, Paige Turner, and other supporting characters with names that match their personalities, like my favorites, Noah Breth and his children Kitty and Kanine Breth. At one point in the story the Klises even manage to have them referred to as the bad Breths. Paige Turner describes Olive C. Spence's books as "graphic epistolary novels - or some such unmarketable nonsense," and this, (obviously minus the "unmarketable nonsense") describes the 43 Cemetery Road series! Kate writes and Sarah illustrates and together they tell their stories through letters, newspaper articles, advertisements and illustrations by Seymour, who is quite the artist.
The set up for the first book that gets the series rolling involves Seymour Hope, the eleven year old son of Les and Diane Hope prominent professors who study paranormal activity. The professors purchased the Spence Mansion, built in 1874 by Olive C. Spence, a woman who died without fulfilling her dream of becoming a published author fulfilled. In fact, Olive earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the person who received the most rejection slips. The Hopes hoped to interact with the ghost of Olive, who promised to haunt her house and the town of Ghastly for eternity or until one of her novels was published - whichever comes first. However, they find no success and instead go on a lecture tour around the world debunking the paranormal. Unfortunately, or, for readers, fortunately, Seymour Hope can see the ghost of Olive and they become fast friends. This makes him an embarrassment to his parents and they leave him behind, alone in the house with his cat Shadow, with a stipulation in the rental agreement for the mansion that the renter of the mansion care for Seymour and his cat and return them to the Hopes "if they so request."
This sets up the perfect environment for some really great things and some really awful things to happen. Ignatius B. Grumply, author of the popular "Ghost Tamer" series of books for kids has some serious writer's block and a bad case of denial when he moves to Ghastly to live in the Spence Mansion and force himself to get his next book written. The deadline to hand it over to Paige Turner is fast approaching and Iggy has already spent his advance, making him even grumpier than usual. When he moves into Spence Mansion he is extremely annoyed to find Seymour and his cat Shadow living in the attic, just below Olive's room in the cupola. One of my favorite illustrations comes at the very end of the book and is titled, "HOUSE Your Knowledge of Victorian Architecture?" There are illustrations of the various things mentioned in the book, from a newel to a finial to a transom and a widow's walk along with definitions. Ignatius, Seymour and Olive get off to a very bad start, with Ignatius refusing to believe that Olive is truly a ghost. However, things change, the fate of the Spence Mansion seems bleak and Olive's vow to haunt the mansion seems about to be broken. But, when tempers cool off and the creative spirit shines through, Ignatius, Olive and Seymour do some truly remarkable things, from writing and illustrating a hugely popular book to creating a brand-new family with a very special bond.
And, this new family makes for some really great, hilarious stories in the five books that follow! Seymour, Olive and Ignatius find themselves caught up in a campaign to abolish Halloween, a poetic treasure hunt left behind in the will of an eccentric old man (with a very cool dog named Secret), a bad case of the phantom flu and a trip to Hollywood for the filming of Olive's story...
The 43 Old Cemetery Road Series:
Source: Review Copies