Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards

 
3.6 (2)
 
5.0 (1)
802 0
Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
April 25, 2023
ISBN
978-1250797001
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Mo is not afraid of toast. Just to be clear. She is afraid of fires, though. Which can be caused by everyday appliances, like toasters. So toast isn’t the problem, but you could say it’s the start of a slippery slope. Since her family's recent move, Mo's been eating oatmeal.

Moving to a new town isn't easy, but it's harder now that Mo's family is dealing with some tougher stuff, like her stepdad leaving, and her mom trying to find a new job while struggling with depression.

But Mo can't dwell on those things, because there's a ghost dog haunting her backyard―which is also rumored to be the burial site of an elephant who died in a circus fire.

Those stories don't scare Mo; her fears are more rooted in bad things happening in real-life. But her new friend Nathaniel is terrified―and fascinated―by ghosts, and together they decide to investigate the history behind the circus fire, causing Mo to live a little dangerously after all.

As the two begin to uncover truths about their town, their quest also digs up some unexpected truths about their families and themselves.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Reasonable or unreasonable fears?
Overall rating
 
3.3
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
3.0
Monica Lin (who likes to be called Mo), her mother, and younger sister CeCe have lost their home and moved in with her mother's Uncle Ray. After CeCe's father (whom Mo called S-Dad) left, Mo's mother had a hard time paying the bills, and is now looking for another job in their new location. Uncle Ray considers himself an aging Chinese hippie, and puts a lot of interesting vegetables into all the food that he serves. Mo is leery of people at school, and runs afoul of Peter, who claims he owns the school, but makes a tentative friendship with Nathaniel. The two usually hide in the library at lunch, and develop a shared interest in a historical fire in a traveling circus that happened in New Warren and resulted in the death of an elephant, Maudie. Mo is very worried about a lot of things, especially fire, since there was a significant fire in her house caused by a toasted oven the day that S-Dad moved out. Uncle Ray's house is very near the local junk yard, where Maudie was supposedly buried, and Mo realizes that the ghost of Maudie is haunting the area. Since Nathaniel is serious about a career as a paranormal investigator, the two are soon investigating the history of the circus, the town, and the family behind all of the problems. Will Mo be able to put Maudie's spirit to rest and also get help for her own trauma?

Good Points
I really liked the New Warren setting, and especially Uncle Ray. I think there are a lot of young readers who end up living with relatives for extended periods of time, and there aren't as many books that include this. I also thought that Mo's emotions concerning S-Dad, and the fact that he didn't have any contact with her when he left, were worth exploring. Mo and Nathaniel make a good investigative pair, and Nathaniel's ties to Peter are realistic. I was glad to see that Mo's family problems were talked about, and that she and her mother got some help. Uncle Ray was so much fun, and I enjoyed the scenes where he was trying to help Mo make sense of the world.

I always question a school library that allows students to hide from the librarian and eat lunch. It's so busy in my library, and I'm so careful to know where all the students are that it always bothers me.

This is a good choice for readers who like some ghosts mixed in with mental health issues in books like Urban's Almost There and Almost Not, Malinenko's This Appearing House, or Arnold's The House That Wasn't There.
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Communicate with others when you need help.
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
Deep fears are an issue in the book and pyromania is a big problem for Mo. Mo’s family lost their home so they’re now living with her Uncle Ray. Mo can’t sleep unless she’s checked the house for fire hazards and made sure all appliances have been unplugged. She also has a fear of ghosts but it’s not clear where it originated. Her phobias are exaggerated when she hears a story about the ghost of an elephant haunting the town after it was killed in a circus tent fire many years ago.
This strange tale of Maudie the elephant becomes the focus for the rest of the plot. Residents keep the myth of her ghost alive as a tourist attraction although there’s usually a hint of truth behind these kinds of stories. Mo reluctantly makes friends with a classmate named Nathaniel out of necessity. She has dreams about the elephant and fire but discovers some unexpected evidence that there’s more going on than she thought. Nathaniel has a strong interest in ghosts so he’s a perfect partner to help her uncover the mystery. The junkyard next to Uncle Ray’s house is the epicenter of the problem and makes an especially creepy setting, even more so at night.
The plot involves many serious issues and feelings that might be encountered by young readers. Mo’s stepdad left and remarried so she has mixed emotions about remembering him. He’s the only father she remembers but he abandoned the family and doesn’t treat her like his birth-daughter CeCe. In addition, Mo’s mother is still struggling after the divorce so she hasn’t been behaving very motherly. Being the new kid at school, Mo has trouble with classmates and doesn’t see the value in making new friends. Nathaniel’s father died a year ago so those emotions are still fresh in his mind, especially with the memory of his last words to his father.
What didn’t work as well:
Uncle Ray helps Mo deal with her stress throughout the book by listening to remixes of old music and discussing the song lyrics. I’m a huge fan of classic rock but young readers probably won’t appreciate song references without having some idea of their words. Readers will still get the gist of some songs after Uncle Ray shares his thoughts and the overall plot can still be enjoyed.
The Final Verdict:
The early part of the book may not grab readers right away due to Mo’s phobias and negativity. However, the author tenderly addresses Mo’s deep emotions and blends that with her quest to bring a peaceful resolution for Maudie’s spirit.
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0(1)
Characters
 
5.0(1)
Writing Style
 
5.0(1)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
5.0(1)
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Interesting
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
5.0
I recently read Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards by author J.T. Penn and was truly blown away by how captivating the story was. Penn’s writing style is truly unique and engaging, keeping me hooked throughout the entire story.

Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards is set in the small town of Wish, Oregon, and follows the story of a group of teenage friends, each with their own supernatural abilities. This diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique powers, created a truly fun and interesting story. I enjoyed learning about each character’s backstory and watching as they used their supernatural abilities to battle an evil force threatening their town.

The plot of Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards is filled with plenty of suspense and action, making it a thrilling read. Penn does an excellent job of building tension and suspense in each scene, and it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book.
Good Points
9
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