The Ghost Tree (Spooky Sleuths #1) by Natasha Deen, illustrated by Lissy Martin

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary:  Asim is new in the island town of Lion’s Gate, Washington, where both of his parents work at the island’s somewhat mysterious lab.  On his first day of school, Asim discovers a mysterious tree in the cemetery that grows unusually fast and seems to be destroying other life around it.  He witnesses a construction worker touch the tree and undergo a complete personality change.  Later, he befriends Rokshar, a girl in his class who aspires to be a scientist and takes a more skeptical view of events that Asim interprets as supernatural.  When their teacher, Mx Hudson, is also negatively affected by the tree, Asim, Rokshar, and some of their friends have to figure out a way to destroy the tree–even if it puts them in danger.  Includes an author’s note about the Guyanese folklore that inspired the story and a sneak peek at book #2.  95 pages; grades 2-4.

Pros:  This illustrated chapter book will appeal to the many kids who like scary stories, but who may not be ready for horror.  It’s a promising series starter with interesting characters and just the right amount of spookiness mixed with scientific skepticism.

Cons:  It’s unclear how Rokshar’s brothers go from being bullies to allies so quickly.

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