Ophie’s Ghosts

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2021. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062915894.
Gr 5-7–In 1923, 12-year-old Black girl Ophelia (Ophie) Harrison sees dead people, a talent that runs in her family but was jump-started early in her after the lynching of her father in Georgia. Three months later, she and her mother are in Pittsburgh working at Daffodil Manor, a mansion with four living inhabitants and a slew of ghosts. As Ophie takes care of grouchy, racist Mrs. Caruthers, she also begins to learn how to deal with her newfound abilities and befriends a helpful, unusually cheerful ghost named Clara. Ophelia is a likable character, strong and smart but definitely not perfect. Supporting characters are well drawn, and locations in the story—Pennsy (the Pennsylvania Railroad), the trolley, the city of Pittsburgh, Daffodil Manor—all read like characters themselves. Violence takes place mostly off-stage, but the real horror is racism, privation, and lack of decency faced by the Black characters every day. The mystery of Clara’s death is ultimately solved, and the end is satisfying.
VERDICT Chilling on a number of levels, this is a historically rooted ghost story well worth reading.

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