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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Ascender, Volume 1: The Haunted Galaxy by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
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The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee
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Heartwood Hotel: Home Again by Kallie George
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Lyle and the Birthday Party by Bernard Waber
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We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian
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Ghost Squad: 04/25/20

Ghost Squad

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega is a middle grade urban fantasy set in St. Augustine Florida. Lucely Luna, a Domican-American, and her father run a ghost tour. Recently business isn't good enough to keep up with the mortgage. Although it's been their family home for hundreds of years, the mortgage was taken out to make hurricane repairs. Lucely and her best-friend Sal will work together to save the house.

In the vast majority of middle grade fantasy novels I've read the protagonist starts ignorant of the magic around them, even if the rest of their family are working with magic, fighting monsters, busting ghosts, etc. Lucely and Sal, though, are different. From the very first page it's made clear that they are aware of the ghosts and magic in their city. Lucely's home is full of generations of family ghosts who also take the form of fireflies in the huge tree that is part of the yard. Meanwhile, Sal's grandmother is a known witch.

Since magic is known to both girls, no time is lost in introducing the second big threat to Lucely's life: the prophesy of a monster's arrival on the next big storm. Her only way of saving her ghostly ancestors and St. Augustine is to learn the history of Las Brujas Moradas.

With the St. Augustine's nautical history it's no surprise that the novel is peppered with Goonies references. That's including a magical cat named Chunk. There's treasure hunting in old cemeteries and other historical locations. There's also ghostbusting!

Lucely and Sal's adventures also fit into the road narrative spectrum. As with many POC narratives, the emphasis is on the family traveler (33). Here, family is stronger in the journey taken than any individual traveler. Lucely is traveling (albeit metaphorically as she never leaves her city) to save her family and with the help of her ghostly ancestors. Sal is traveling with this help of her grandmother.

Their destination is uhoria (or out of time) (CC). Here the uhoria is metaphorical, represented in a number of ways. First there are the ghosts of Lucely's ancestors. Next there is the history of St. Augustine which they research in search for a solution. Finally there is the treks to different cemeteries and other historical locations seeking spells and clues.

The route Lucely and Sal take is the Blue Highway (33). These are the established routes that aren't interstates or railroads. A quick look on Google Maps verifies that there are literally no interstates that go through the town. The narrative, though, also mentions nothing of the sort. Instead the roads are older, having grown along with the town over the decades.

All together, Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega can be summed up as being about family travelers going to uhoria via the Blue Highway.

Five stars

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