Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator

Over the course of the week, I have been reading Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison (Sleuth/Dutton, 7/05). I had the opportunity to host a reading and discussion with the author on Thursday, but wasn't quite able to finish reading before meeting with her! The book is a lot of fun, and is a perfect read for 11 to 14-year-old girls.

Gilda Joyce is a 13-year-old with a vivid imagination who involves herself in a number of "careers", one of which is "psychic investigator". As summer vacation approaches, Gilda finds herself with nothing much to do except spy on Plaid Pants, a suspicious convenience store clerk, until she has the brilliant brain-wave of inviting herself to stay with some distant relatives in glamorous San Francisco.

Thus begins a summer full of adventure, mystery, ghosts, and friendship. Gilda's distant cousin, Juliet, is the same age and has been suffering depression after the mysterious suicide of her aunt. Gilda herself has not been able to heal for the two years since her father's death and the girls find solace with each other and are able to bring resolution to their feelings of abandonment after solving the mystery behind the aunt's death. While this may sound somewhat morbid, the subject is treated with a good combination of sensitivity and light humor.

Each of the girls learns a bit more about herself and her talents through a series of embarrassing and exciting adventures with ghosts, mysterious noises, and a creey tower. What starts out as an awkward relationship ends with warm friendship.

The novel is written in the constraints of a small circle of characters and a fairly limited setting, giving the reader an opportunity to really know the characters and their quirks. It's a solid first novel for Ms. Allison.

Overall: B

Ms. Allison led a discussion of the book with a group of about ten 9 to 14-year-olds. They discussed the idea of psychic abililty and vibrations as well as the writing process and a future sequel to the book. They also took part in a writing exercise in which Ms. Allison gave each child a picture of a person and the child then wrote their observations and things they sensed about the person in the image, in a variation on the psychic technique of automatic writing. All in all, a fun and successful event.

Happy reading,
Your Friendly Librarian

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