I used to live in Humboldt County, California where a ghost named Ralph is reported to haunt the Carnegie Library in Eureka, down in the basement. Apparently he likes to throw books off shelves. I don’t know what it is about books and ghosts, but it seems like ghosts like to mess with them.
Today I’m reviewing the first two books in a series about ghosts in a library that I’m sure any ghost will want to read rather than throw. And so will you!
About The Haunted Library A brand-new young chapter book series from Edgar Award winner Dori Hillestad Butler! When ghost boy Kaz’s haunt is torn down and he is separated from his ghost family, he meets a “solid” girl named Claire, who lives above the town library with her parents and her grandmother. Claire has a special ability to see ghosts when other humans cannot and she and Kaz quickly form a friendship. The two join forces to solve the mystery of the ghost that’s haunting the library. Could it be one of Kaz’s lost family members?
You say you’ve never seen a ghost. What’s your interest in them? I’ve always loved ghost stories. Funny ghost stories, serious ghost stories, scary ghost stories…you name it, if it has a ghost in it, I’m probably a fan. I don’t think you have to believe in ghosts to enjoy a good ghost story.
Do you like scary movies? I do! I don’t like scary/gory…but I love scary/suspense. I always have. When we were teenagers, my best friend and I used to watch scary movies together and then we’d walk each other half way home. At night. When it was dark. I remember one time the movie had scared us so much that when we got to the halfway point between our houses, neither of us wanted to walk the rest of the way alone. So we scurried back to my house and she called her mom for a ride. When her mom came, she just shook her head and said, “I don’t know why you two watch those movies!”
If you knew a hotel was haunted, would you want to stay there? Sure! I’ve stayed at bed and breakfasts in Wisconsin and Michigan that were rumored to be haunted. If there were any ghosts, they didn’t come out while I was there.
What’s your concept of a ghost in this series because I noticed that they don’t seem to have any carry over of having been a human such as Kaz not knowing what a pencil is. Are your ghosts a separate “life” form or a transformed human? It’s true…the ghosts in my series are not your traditional ghosts. They’re not dead people. They’re more like transparent people with super powers. But even in my world, some ghosts are familiar with pencils. Kaz isn’t because he’s simply never come in contact with one before.
I like Kaz’s ability to shrink and become flat. But he is leery about going through solid material such as walls. Was it your intention to “humanize” Kaz by giving him a fault and something he can hope to overcome? Yes, the intent there was definitely to “humanize” Kaz. I hadn’t really thought about it as “giving him a fault” before, but I can’t say that’s wrong. I want kids to relate to his struggles. Every other ghost can glow and wail and pass through solid objects. Kaz wants very much to master these skills, too, but it’s so hard. Any kid who’s ever struggled with anything (and what kid hasn’t?) can relate to that, can’t they? I also want readers to cheer when Kaz masters one of these skills. I want them to realize that if Kaz can learn to pass through a wall, for example, then they can overcome whatever difficulty they might be struggling with, too.
Who is the inspiration for Claire? Claire is a completely fictional character. She is a compilation of a lot of girls/women I’ve known over the years, but no one person inspired her. I just needed a strong female character to balance the more cautious Kaz.
Is Cosmo the family dog based on any dogs you know and how?
This is the real life Cosmo:
I know…he doesn’t really look like the Cosmo in the books, but I never described Cosmo in the books. I left it up to the illustrator to decide to draw Kaz’s dog. (Natasha’s note: He reminds me of Scooby Doo!)
The real life Cosmo belongs to one of my closest friends. When I met Cosmo, I assumed my friend named him after Cosmo Topper from the old Topper movies (I LOVED those movies!), but she says he was named after a character on the Fairly Odd Parents. While Cosmo Topper wasn’t a dog, he was a ghost. And now I knew a dog named Cosmo. So I knew right from the start Kaz’s ghost dog’s name was Cosmo. I knew that even before I knew Kaz’s name.
Why did you pick a library to haunt versus an old house, say? Because I’m not just someone who likes the library, I LOVE libraries. I love them so much that I did an entire blog post on this subject for my agent’s blog on Sept 9, 2014. I also wrote about my appreciation for libraries on my own blog in February 2011 after one of my other books was publicly challenged.
What’s your favorite part about writing a series? Least favorite? The best part is being able to stay with the same characters and watch them grow beyond one book. Kaz has grown quite a bit over the five books I’ve written so far. My least favorite part of writing a series is I am limited by everything I’ve already written. Sometimes I get a great idea in book 2 or 3 or 4, but I can’t use it because it contradicts something I’ve established in a previous book.
Did you start off writing this as a series or was that something that grew out of your first story? No, my intent was to write a series right from the start. A series about a ghost boy and a “solid” girl who team up and solve mysteries together. I can keep going as long as there are readers and as long as my publisher is interested in continuing the series.
About Dori Hillestad Butler – Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 40 books for children. Her books have appeared on children’s choice award lists in 18 different states. Trading Places with Tank Talbott won the Maryland Children’s Choice Award in 2007. And The Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. In 2013 she chaired the Juvenile Edgar Award committee. Dori has also been a ghostwriter (not to be confused with a real ghost who writes!) for the Sweet Valley Twins, Unicorn Club, and Boxcar Children series, and a children’s book reviewer for several publications. She’s published numerous short stories, plays, and educational materials, and has served as the Iowa Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ Regional Advisor. She grew up in southern Minnesota, spent the last 19 years in Iowa, and has just recently moved to the Seattle area. She is on a quest to do an author visit in all 50 states (14 down, 36 to go!).
The review copies of The Haunted Library (Book 1) and The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic (Book 2) were appropriately donated to the Old Town library in Fort Collins, Colorado.