Forever Home

Kaboom!. Feb. 2021. 176p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781684156030.
Gr 4-7–An intrepid girl convinces a menagerie of amusing apparitions to make “their” house her home. Every two years, military brat Willow’s family moves somewhere new, but Willow wants nothing more than to put down roots. When her parents purchase the historic Hadleigh House, it seems they’re finally ready to settle in. There’s just one problem: The building’s already swarming with spectral residents. A horror-movie die-hard undaunted by the unknown, Willow endeavors to give a whole new meaning to the term mixed family. Can she get the otherworldly cohabitants to cooperate, and persuade her parents to remain in a haunted house? Or is she the one doomed to drift between planes? Best known for illustrations under properties such as Adventure Time, Ayoub balances a comic sensibility and genuine heart in her solo debut. Send-ups of paranormal investigation shows, horror movie tropes, and witty repartee complement more sentimental ruminations on belonging as episodic segments cohere into a compulsively readable whole. Plain backgrounds focus attention on figures and movement while characters—from Willow’s family to her adopted kinfolk—delight. Viola and Gladys, the Hadleigh sisters, engage in mischief to defend “their” home; Thomas, a soft-hearted bookworm killed during World War I, simply seeks peace; the melodramatic Lady in White bemoans the “mysterious” deaths of myriad lovers; and an unnamed demon cat talks lotsa smack. The contrast between the supporting cast’s pinprick peepers and Willow’s big, round eyes visually embodies the overall dynamic. Willow’s mother is Black, her father is white, and Willow is biracial; the ghosts are white.
VERDICT Announce this presence to upper elementary and middle grade readers who love their spook tempered with fun.

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