The Ghost Collector

Annick Pr. Sept. 2019. 192p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781773212968; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781773212951.
Gr 5 Up–Sixth grader Shelly and her grandmother collect ghosts in their hair, and then help them pass over into the afterlife. Together, they rid neighbors’ houses of the ghosts of small animals, lead human spirits to rest, and visit those who are not ready to pass on in the graveyard. Shelly’s grandmother even helps the police find dead bodies. It feels fun and important until Shelly’s mother—who doesn’t like ghosts and has never approved of ghost collecting—dies suddenly in a car accident and can’t be found. Shelly’s world is horribly, abruptly divided into before and after the accident, and she starts to hang out in the graveyard, looking for her mother and bringing the ghosts that she does find home to her room rather than letting them pass on. Though the premise may sound spooky, the ghosts Shelly finds are more often sad or confused—the book never goes for shock value or evil poltergeists. Shelly’s and her grandmother’s Cree identity is a quiet thread throughout the story: it is valuable and significant to their characters, and Cree lore provides the basis upon which the story is set.
VERDICT Mills has created a gentle, understated story about grief and loss through a paranormal lens. This is a necessary book that is sure to have readers. Highly recommended

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