By Awnali Mills
My newest listen on my daily commute was Spellbinder by Helen Stringer. Belladonna’s parents are dead, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone. Nope. They’re ghosts, and they (mostly) carry on as though they are living. That is, they do until all the ghosts in the world disappear. Well, all of them but Elsie, the ghost who haunts Belladonna’s school. Belladonna’s grandmother and aunt are trying to figure out where the ghosts have gone (seeing and communicating with ghosts runs in the family), and they’re not letting her in on their investigations.
But circumstances are not leaving Belladonna alone, and her friend Steve gets sucked into the problem as well. The world of the living is in jeopardy, night ravens and nightmare hounds are out to get Belladonna, and she is determined not to sit idly by. But will she and Steve have the guts and smarts to figure out what’s going on and stop it before the world is destroyed?
I enjoyed this book enough that I may seek out the rest of the series to listen to. The book is narrated by Helen Stringer herself, and she does the great job you’d expect of lending the characters the right inflections and tones. She doesn’t do the best job of differentiating the voices, but her English accent is so delightful to listen to that I didn’t mind much, even though it was sometimes hard to figure out who was speaking.
Because the story is a little dark and focuses so much on death and the plotline can be complicated, I might reserve it for older elementary students. There’s nice snarky humor to spice things up and lighten the mood, so don’t think it’s all grim. Kids who enjoy fantasy or darker stories will enjoy this one.