Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards

Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards
Age Range
Release Date
April 25, 2023
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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 review

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Communicate with others when you need help.
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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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