Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Phantom Isles

The Phantom Isles

Stephen Alter
For ages 10 and up
Bloomsbury, 2007   ISBN: 978-1582347387

When Ming first encounters the book "The Complete Necromancer" in her local library she does not know if she really believes all that she reads on the pages. Could a person really talk to ghosts? She certainly does not know if she really believes that she can summon up the dead with an incantation. But, she decides to try anyway. So she and her two best friends, Courtney and Orion, go to the library in the middle of the night and they recite together the words that are written in the book. Then, thinking that nothing came of their efforts, they leave. The next day the librarian, Alma Parker, discovers that there are moving images of faces in some of the books. In fact, it would appear that there are people in the books. Ming, Courtney and Orion also see the faces and with Miss Parker's help the children try to figure out who the people in the books are.

After some careful research and reading they discover that the people in the books are ghosts which were trapped inside the books many years ago. Somehow the incantation that the children used made it possible for the ghosts to be seen. The ghosts used to live on the island of Ilhas dos Fantasmas but they were cruelly taken from their home and have been trapped inside the books ever since. The children and Miss Parker cannot help feeling very sorry for the ghosts and they wish they could find a way to free the men, women, and children who are trapped in the pages but they are not sure how this can be done. Surely somewhere there has to be some information that will help them free the ghosts once and for all.

This unique story is sure to catch the attention of even the most skeptical and dismissive of readers, for here ghosts are presented in a very different way, and one cannot help becoming interested in this extraordinary story of a family, an island, and a race of ghosts. Written in a style which is sometimes almost scholarly, complete in some sections with footnotes to help explain certain details about the people and places in the story, this tale is completely engrossing and thoroughly satisfying right to the very last page.