Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ghost--Busted! I'm Gonna Get You (Ghost Detectors) by Dottie Enderle

Startled, Malcolm jumped. The man was wearing a powder-blue '70s leisure suit and was smiling at him. Malcolm thought about grabbing his ghost zapper, but this apparition didn't appear menacing at all. Malcolm then saw that there was a family resemblance.

"Grandpa Bertram, is that YOU?"

Grandpa Bertram nodded. Without a word he pointed to the kitchen table, then disappeared.

Malcolm looked down to see a small bag filled with jellybeans. He picked them up, careful not to mess up the lovely blue ribbon attached. He quietly crept to Grandma Eunice's room and placed them on her night table.

I must confess that I almost gave up on Ghost Detectors in the middle of Book 1, It Creeps! (Ghost Detectors). Main character Malcolm, a techno-geek would-be ghost hunter and his dim-bulb best friend Dandy are overjoyed at the arrival of a mail-order gismo--the Ecto-Handheld-Automatic-Heat-Sensitive-Laser-Enhanced-Specter Detector. This naive duo are comic enough characters, but what really turned me off was the portrayal of Malcolm's great-grandmother Eunice, who is shown, doty as a dodo bird, drooling and with spaghetti sauce dribbling down her chin, in the early chapters. But just as I was about to toss this one back in the discard pile, author Enderle redeemed herself with a revelation from Grandma herself:

Grandma Eunice laughed. "I act the way I'm treated. I tried to convince your mother a long time ago that I'm sane. But for some reason, she and everyone else wants to treat me like I'm one banana short of a bunch. I just go along to make them happy. Besides, it keeps me from having to take a turn doing the dishes."

Malcolm couldn't resist. He reached over and gave Grandma Eunice a hug.

"And Malcolm, honey," Grandma called out, "try not to talk about me while I'm in the room."

And the newly revealed Grandma Eunice even fills the would-be ghost hunters in on the backstory of the local haunted house, and with her help Malcolm and the clueless Dandy cut their ghostbusting teeth at the old McBleaky mansion.

Then, Book 2, I'm Gonna Get You! (Ghost Detectors) (Abdo, 2010), begins with the two ten-year-olds waiting eagerly for yet another device ordered from the back-page ads in Weird Worlds Magazine. Having discovered that finding ghosts can be hazardous to their health, Malcolm is sure his new Ecto-Handheld-Automatic-Heat-Sensitive-Laser-Enhanced Ghost Zapper will help them deal with any ghost they manage to summon, but when the two uncover an ill-tempered ghost in their vacationing neighbor's house, it takes all the boys' courage to brave the premises again on what they hope is their final ghostbusting mission.

Malcolm is considering resigning forever from ghostbusting when the Specter-Detector accidentally falls into the hands of Grandma Eunice. Lonely for her deceased husband, Grandma "borrows" the Detector to try to communicate with her beloved Bertram. "He always brought me jellybeans," she explains poignantly. And Malcolm's encounter with Grandpa Bertram restores his faith in the virtues of ghost hunting, just in time for the next book, Tell No One! (Ghost Detectors).

There's no Newbery Award in store for these quirky, tongue-in-cheek books, but the characters, even Malcolm's annoying green-lipsticked big sister Cocoa, humorously cartooned by illustrator Howard McWilliam, begin to grow on you as you read, and with the addition of Malcolm's newly-minted ghostly dog, Spooky, to the mix, this silly but sweet series will find its niche among the those readers who like their science fiction ghost stories a bit on the wacky side.

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