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The Blue Ghost: Stepping Stones Mystery    by Marion Dane Bauer & Suling Wang order for
Blue Ghost
by Marion Dane Bauer
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Blue Ghost is a warmhearted mystery in the Stepping Stones™ chapter book series. Marion Dane Bauer writes a tender tale of nine-year-old Liz, who travels to the woods of Minnesota to be a 'guardian angel' to Grandmother Betty, and to assist in packing her belongings. The centuries old family-built log cabin has been put up for sale, and Grandmother will be living in her city house, nearer to Liz and her parents. For Grandmother the log home was all about connections.

During the first night, Liz hears a voice calling Elizabeth as a blue glow lights up the room. A shimmery figure comes forward, beckoning Liz to follow. A blue light floats around the room outlining a woman, her hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck and wearing a long, old-fashioned dress. But when Liz touches the wall, there is nothing there and she passes it off as a dream. The next morning Grandmother explains that girls born into the family were traditionally named Elizabeth, but some were shortened to Liz, Beth, or Betty to distinguish one from the other. Liz also learns that the cabin took on its hodgepodge shape, because her great, great grandfather added on rooms each time 'a new child was born'. The room Liz occupies used to be one large room, accommodating a kitchen and bedroom.

The voice calls to her again in the night in a stronger whisper, and Liz realizes it comes from the wall behind her bed. She pulls the bed away from the wall, listening intently with her eyes shut, slowly stepping forward as she hears the wind in the trees, and water caressing the lakeshore. When she opens her eyes, she is on the other side of the wall in the presence of three young boys, and a girl changing a baby on a dresser top. Her name is Elizabeth and as she reaches out, she says, 'Mama always told me that I had a guardian angel. And here you be!' She explains that the baby is very ill with the croup, and the doctor lives far away. The blue figure hovers above a trunk, just like the one in Liz's room from which she came through the wall.

Suling Wang uses soft, grey-muted colors, mixed with wisps of white, giving her illustrations an ethereal appearance to accompany Bauer's mystic tale of time travel and the miracle of family love. Bauer, a Newbery Honor Book winner, has written more than forty books for children, including On My Honor and Rain of Fire. Her wording and phrasing are perfect for youngsters stepping into chapter books.

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