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Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee

Steinbeck's Ghost

by Lewis Buzbee

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I picked this book up because I saw the name Steinbeck. John Steinbeck has been my favorite author for years.
Mr. Buzbee has created a wonderful world where thirteen year old Travis resides with his friend, Hilario, his parents and the Salinas Public Library. After his family's move from Oldtown Salinas to a new walled development called Bella Linda Terrace, Travis feels left out of life. He feels that there are two lives to live - his normal life where he goes to school, comes home, does homework, and his "real world" where he visits the library, sees strange people that may be characters from Steinbeck's books.
When the city officials threaten to close the library, Ms. Babb, the librarian, enlists Travis' help to raise money and awareness. He is more than happy to help.
Travis meets Ernest Oster, author of Corral de Tierra, a favorite childhood book about the valley near his home. Oster sees the same strange things that Travis sees - Gitano the paisano, the Watchers on the hillside, Johnny Bear. Together they follow the clues, enlisting Travis' new friend Hil, and search for the reason for these strange sightings.
I remember when the Steinbeck Library in Salinas was slated for closing and the worldwide publicity about saving the library.
Having a wonderful mystery set during this uncertain time is a great idea. The characters are fully realized and interesting.
Overall, a wonderful book about friendship, reading, Salinas, and the endurance of books and their ability to reveal the world to those who read them.
Favorite part is on page 56, where Buzbee describes the feeling of being connected to strangers who have read the same physical library book. ( )
  aimless22 | Aug 3, 2011 |
It did make me want to re-read Steinbeck. ( )
  JNSelko | May 7, 2010 |
How could I not love a book that is about a love of reading, and about the transformative effect libraries can have on people's lives. I also have to love a book that opens with referring to Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time. Along the way there is a lot of great information about Steinbeck, whom I must admit I've never read, and about Salinas, California and the area near that. It is a story about friendship, about parents, and, in the end, about magick. Recommended, especially for teenagers. ( )
  reannon | Nov 6, 2008 |
My mentor and dear friend, Lewis, sent me the ARC for his new YA novel, Steinbeck's Ghost. With three children ages 7-11, I'm always on the look-out for a book we can all share. Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwick's on Gardam Street is currently playing in our minivan and the kids are so caught up in this story that they beg to go food-shopping with me for the chance to hear a few more lines more. I can't wait to cue up Steinbeck's Ghost for them; it will make the perfect October minivan selection to get us through commutes to school, soccer, swimming, dance classes and beyond.

The hero of Steinbeck's Ghost is Travis, a Salinas middle-schooler . Since his family moved to a new housing development that reminds him of Camazotz from A Wrinkle in Time, Travis feels unsettled and adrift. Then he learns that the Salinas library, John Steinbeck's library, is in danger of closing due to budget cuts. While his parents, slaves to their new mortgage, work late, Travis attends "Save Our Library" meetings, makes new friends, and reads and re-reads the novels of John Steinbeck. Soon he begins to see ghosts from these novels -- Gitano, Steinbeck's Watchers, Johnny Bear-- and even John Steinbeck himself in the dry autumn Central California landscape. Travis follows their ghostly trail into the Corral de Tierra and discovers old stories buried in its landscape, stories that eventually help him connect in new ways with his parents, his friends, and his community. This delightful blend of literature, landscape, and mystery makes for a sophisticated, satisfying read for young and old alike.

My nine-year old daughter spent many a day reading Steinbeck's Ghost while curled up in her bed. She even asked to stay home from school one day so she could finish it. (It was testing season and I had to say no -- broke my heart). I asked her for her thoughts on this novel. Not having read the novels of John Steinbeck or even having studied fourth grade CA History yet, I was curious if either of these deficiencies would hamper her understanding and enjoyment of the novel. Here are her thoughts:

"I absolutely loved Steinbeck's Ghost because:
1. now I know just how important books are;
2. it showed me Steinbeck -- in other words, it inspired me to read Steinbeck; and
3. it's just a great book in general."

And here's her favorite passage from Steinbeck's Ghost:

"But what do we do with it?" Travis asked. "Now that we've got the story. It was over a hundred years ago. What are we supposed to do with it all? We have no proof. Oh sure, these characters came out of some book and told us this horrible story. No one will believe us."
Travis couldn't help it, he was pounding the ground with his first.
"We tell the story," Oster said. "We write it down. We say, oh, this is just a story, and that way they'll believe it. We remember for everyone else. It's why we have stories."

If you're interested in more information about Lewis Buzbee and Steinbeck's Ghost, check out Lewis' Father's Day interview with Lisa Harper in the Literary Mama ezine. ( )
  kvanuska | Jun 28, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312373287, Hardcover)

It’s been two months since Travis’s family moved to a development so new that it seems totally unreal. His parents are working harder now, to pay for it all, and Travis is left to fend for himself.

There’s one place, though, where Travis can still connect with his old life: the Salinas library. Travis and his family used to go there together every Saturday, but now he bikes to it alone, re-reading his favorite books.

It’s only natural that Travis likes the work of author John Steinbeck—after all, Salinas is Steinbeck’s hometown. But that can’t explain why Travis is suddenly seeing Steinbeck’s characters spring to life. There’s the homeless man in the alley behind the library, the line of figures at the top of a nearby ridge, the boy who writes by night in an attic bedroom. Travis has met them all before—as a reader. But why are they here now? And how?

As Travis struggles to solve this mystery, budget cuts threaten his library. And so, he embarks on a journey through Steinbeck’s beautiful California landscape, looking for a way to save his safe haven. It’s only then that he begins to sort out fact from fiction, discovering the many ways a story can come alive—and stumbling into a story Steinbeck might have started, and Travis needs to complete.

Here is a mystery that delves deeply into the ways that books take us, one at a time, out into the vast world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:55 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Unhappy after his parents move to a weird subdivision and become workaholics, thirteen-year-old Travis returns to his old Salinas neighborhood and becomes actively involved in saving the John Steinbeck Library and, at the same time, begins seeing characters from Steinbeck's books who seem to have a message for him.… (more)

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