Day of the Living Liv

S. & S./Little Simon. (­Spirited Bk. 1). Jan. 2024. 144p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781665942287.
Gr 3 Up–Readers are welcomed to Liv Livingston’s world as she navigates the dreaded “new kid” dilemma of curious stares and established cafeteria dynamics at school. But there is a twist for this purple-haired tween: she is the only living child at a school for ghosts. Liv was apprehensive about leaving idyllic Pleasant Place, but her amiable stepfather gets her excited about the possibilities in Gloomsdale. Everything is different: Gloomsdale Elementary has spiders and cobwebs (on purpose), coffin-shaped lockers, and hall monitor bats! But the bullying of cheerleading specter Astrid may ring familiar. Luckily, Liv’s new friends Howl and Vera van Pire the Sixth welcome her with open arms and encourage her individuality. This title has many strengths, and Liv’s second-person narration is charming, giving off the interactive warmth of a diary. The art is bold and appealing, and the rich texture and expressive character designs are reminiscent of Molly Knox Ostertag’s “Witch Boy” series. Young readers will pore over the abundance of spooky and humorous background details in every panel. However, the driving conflict and resolution feel thin for how well the author builds out Liv’s world. The bullying isn’t effectively addressed—there are ghostly teachers all over the school, yet none intervene when Astrid steals Liv’s artwork and openly mocks it in class. But the conclusion drives home the message that it’s okay to be different and to be yourself.
VERDICT A sweet title that delivers more life lessons than scares; a promising series debut.

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