GHOST SQUAD by Claribel A. Ortega is a ghostly adventure book that centers girl-power, friendship, the power of family legacy and connection, and conquering fears – both large and small. Ortega has created main characters in Lucely and Syd who are at once loveable and impressive. Their development includes Dominican and Black American cultural references while leaning on the deep connection the girls share. The creative challenges and villains presented throughout this chapter book are fun, frenetic, and routed in real problems despite the fantastical elements. Aimed at ages 8-12, this middle grade novel will entertain readers for what is sure to be multiple readings.
Lucely Luna needs to save her family home from foreclosure for all the usual reasons, but also because the family tree that houses the spirits of her ancestors is there. Her father’s business of Ghost Tours is negatively affected by a flashy newcomer, and her family members, in the form of fireflies that become ghosts who can speak to her and support her, are weakening and becoming agitated. Her best friend Syd joins Lucely in trying to find out what evil force is causing the trouble, and they sneak into libraries and crypts and mayor’s offices to find the truth.
Middle Grade readers will love the back-and-forth and deep loyalty between Lucely and Syd. They will also be fascinated, and maybe a tad envious, with the presence of a nurturing, teasing, scolding, and always loving extended family of ghosts and a grandmother who is also an eccentric witch. The girls use both extraordinary and typically-tween methods to accomplish their goals. This combination of accessible and heroic adventures is part of the magic Ortega incorporates throughout the novel. There is some uneven development in supporting characters, but GHOST SQUAD is a delight. Highly recommended.