Monday, September 21, 2009

Ghost Limbo: The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to ALL the Ghosts, Found out Where they WENT, and Went There by Daniel Pinkwater

You know you're not in for the average middle school saga when the heroine introduces herself as Yggdrasil Birnbaum and tells us that the residential hotel where she lives is inhabited by ghosts--lots of them, including the spirit of Rudolph Valentino, La Brea Tar Pit Woman, Billy the Phantom Bellhop (a fifteen-year-old ghost who has recently acquired his driver's license as a 59-year-old semi-visible motorist), and a ghostly bunny named Chase.

But Iggy's problem is NOT the fact that there are innumerable intriguing and sometimes annoying ghosts living in her building, but the fact that the ghosts seem to be disappearing, or dispersing, or disembodying or whatever. Her favorites seem somehow to be leaving their pleasant afterlife in the Hollywood of 1950, apparently to congregate at an undisclosed location in another plane of existence.

It's all too much for the free-spirited Iggy to take, and with her adventurous friends Neddie Wentworthstein (of the previous book The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization) and Seamus Finn, she learns from a bit of sleuthing around Old Hollywood's famous eateries that the ghosts have decamped for an other worldly holiday assembly in Old New Hackensack in the great beyond, and soon the three friends throw themselves solidly down their own rabbit hole as they follow Chase into Underland to find out what's up with their friendly dead.

Along the way they meet up with author Daniel Pinkwater's usual suspects, beginning with Mama Banana and her commune of elderly midget hoopies who wear rainbow garb and beads and ply the three with granola, acoustic music, and a place to crash.

"Dude," one of the old people said. "It's kids in a coracle!"

"Far out!" another old person said.

"Heavy!" said another one.

We beached our coracle and helped the old people carry baskets of fish up the bank.

"What do you do with the fish?" I asked.

"We smoke them."

"Oh, and then you sell them?"


The three travelers go on to meet up with a witch in a suspiciously gingerbready house who seeks to change children into cats, escaping her with no more than reasonably attractive little whiskers added to their faces. They then go on to meet up with, among others, the alternate universe versions of Toad of Toad Hall, The Wiz of Oz, and the Good Witch Shmenda, who floats down in a bubble and with their help gives the evil witches of New Old Hackensack their comeuppance. In Daniel Pinkwater's The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, Found Out Where They Went, and Went There, it's just another day in the life for his wonderfully wacky characters.

As School Library Journal's reviewer puts it, "Pinkwater's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor is very much in evidence, as is his penchant for odd names and eccentric folks. His version of 1950s L.A., filled with aging movie stars and health-food fanatics, is authentically and delightfully kooky. The story takes a while to get going, but once these young heroes reach Underland, the action picks up, and readers will speed happily through to the goofy ending."

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