Reviews for Steinbeck's Ghost

Booklist Reviews 2008 August #1
When 13-year-old Travis discovers his beloved John Steinbeck Public Library is threatened with closure, he and his best friend, Hilario, spring into action. Despite the risk of being dubbed Library Dorks, the two become stalwartâ€"and very publicâ€"members of the Save Our Library Committee. Set in Nobel laureate John Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas, California, Buzbee's first novel for young readers is based on the actual closure of the town's libraries in 2005. But things quickly take a turn for the weird when characters from Steinbeck's novels start coming to life and Trav, with the help of a local author and Steinbeck aficionado, tries to find out why. The answers he discovers are not completely satisfactory, since the realistic and the fantastic elements of the story never really gel. But Buzbee's love for literature and libraries is infectious and, for those similarly inclined, deeply satisfying. Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Thirteen-year-old Travis loves books--especially those by John Steinbeck. Travis doesn't love his parents' new jobs, their new neighborhood, or the fact that the local library might close. As he and his friends campaign to save the library, they uncover a literary puzzle and helpful ghosts. Much of the mystery is lost because too much is explained. However, earnest appreciation for Steinbeck's California propels the story to a stirring conclusion. Bib. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 July #2
An avid reader, 13-year-old Travis becomes involved in local efforts to save the Salinas, Calif., public library from closing and discovers there's a fine line between reality and fiction--especially in the town John Steinbeck immortalized. Since moving from a small, comfy house in Oldtown Salinas to a sterile development, Travis's parents seem too preoccupied with work to pay attention to him. Lonely and unsettled, Travis returns to the Oldtown library and immediately feels reconnected to his former life. After checking out books by and about Steinbeck, Travis begins to see characters from the author's stories. With the library slated to close, Travis joins the fundraising and becomes "part of something huge," embarking on a personal as well as literary pilgrimage through Steinbeck country to uncover an untold story from the past. Heavy reliance on intertextual references to Steinbeck's work proves a bit daunting, but appropriate for the bibliophile protagonist who went "to the library looking for a book, but...found so much more." Magical realism with Steinbeck's ghost and a discerning young hero. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 August #2

In his middle-grade debut, Buzbee (The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop ) pays eerie tribute to a great American author. A native of Salinas, Calif., Travis Williams is campaigning to save the public library (named after the town's most famous citizen, John Steinbeck) when he's unsettled by seeing a ghost in the attic window of Steinbeck's childhood house, hearing a vagrant spouting dialogue from The Red Pony and finding a cave that holds dark secrets about Steinbeck's history. As he joins forces with a classmate and a Steinbeck expert, Travis finds himself drawn into a mystery at least as exciting as those he's read about in books. Creating a brand of magical realism that is more thought provoking than scary, Buzbee resurrects Steinbeck characters and scenes to tell a story within a story. If events are strung together too tidily to allow for a happy ending, the story remains an intriguing introduction/companion to Steinbeck's works and imaginatively conveys the power of literature to transport people to another time and place. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 September

Gr 5-7-- Travis, 13, is trying to adjust to his family's move from Salinas, CA, to a brand-new development. To him, his new home and neighborhood are like Camazotz, the planet from A Wrinkle in Time where everything is the same. His parents seem to work all the time to support their current lifestyle, leaving him on his own. An almost magnetic pull draws him back to his old neighborhood and his favorite place, the John Steinbeck Library, only to discover that it is in jeopardy of being closed. The focus of the novel changes as Travis becomes immersed in the campaign to save it. His friend, Hilario, becomes involved as well. The mysterious underpinnings of the story begin when Travis cycles by Steinbeck's house and sees a boy writing in the attic window. Steinbeck's stories haunt him, and he starts to see characters from them. The second half of the book is the most absorbing. When he, Hil, and an elderly author go into the hills of Corral de Tierra, they have magical experiences that bring them closer to Steinbeck's world. There are some convenient plot twists and stereotypical characters. The protagonist, however, is well drawn. This novel would have greatest appeal to readers familiar with Steinbeck's works.--Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

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