The Second-Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street

Amulet. Aug. 2020. 304p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781419740176.
Gr 4-6–After her mom dies suddenly and her dad slips into a depression, 12-year-old Willow finds herself running the Hotel Ivan. Hotel Ivan has been in Willow’s family for 400 years, a Victorian mansion that employs ghosts from all eras to help run the hotel and engage with guests. The Hauntery is the recently built chain hotel in direct competition with phony claims and new, cheap structures made to look old. Ghosts employed by hotel chain are rotated through the locations and bossed by the living with a heavy hand. One day Evie, an eternally 12-year-old ghost, runs from the chain hotel in frustration and meets Willow at the local public library, where they bond over their shared favorite book series, the “Deena Morales Mysteries.” Hotel Ivan is up for an inspection from the Zagged guide and it needs a five-star, number one review to draw new guests and keep its doors open. To make an impression on the inspector, Willow and Evie hatch a plan to recreate a murder mystery from the Deena Morales books. All of the ghostly staff conspire to help, but things go awry. Sparse greyscale illustrations in this novel add a touch of charm.
VERDICT For any young reader who enjoys a bit of mystery, tales of unlikely friendships, and amiable ghosts, this spooky-sweet title is a first-rate choice.

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