Jon Whitcroft, age eleven, has many reasons for resenting his trip to boarding school. Although his father died seven years ago, he still misses him and certainly does not want to be separated from his mother and sisters or his friends at his old school. Perhaps most annoying, however, is his mother’s new soon-to-be-live-in boyfriend whom Jon refers to as “The Beard”. Jon’s schemes to chase him away backfired, resulting in his current exile to Salisbury Cathedral School.
Jon’s brooding nature fails to see the bright side of things. His roommates, Angus and Stu, try their best to make Jon welcome. They quickly conclude that they are wasting their time when Jon begins to see ghosts outside their bedroom window. How can anyone cheer up a madman? But Jon is truly seeing evil spirits, and they seem determined to kill him. Only Ella Littlejohn, the prettiest girl in school, believes him. While Stu and Angus have a premature interest in girls, Jon is simply relieved to have someone who will listen to him. Of course, Ella knows all about ghosts. Her grandmother, Zelda, gives ghost tours at the local cathedral and sees them regularly. Ella is convinced her grandmother can help Jon, and Jon is desperate enough to take help from anyone willing to offer it.
Cornelia Funke’s creepy and suspenseful story will send shivers down young readers’ spines. Jon speaks with a variety of spirits from beyond the grave, none of whom are wholly trustworthy. He is even possessed by them more than once, experiencing their lives as his own. Ironically, in spite of their contact with the dead, none of the main characters in the book believe in heaven or hell. Coarse language and references to cohabitation may render this book more appropriate for an older audience than is recommended by the publisher.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.