Ghost Lettersby Stephen Alter
When two modern-day kids discover a grotesque secret in an abandoned mailbox, they have no idea they are about to be drawn into a mystery that began on the other side of the world. Through the help of an English genie and a phantom postman, the two children begin to communicate with a young calligrapher's apprentice who lived 125 years ago in a small, Himalayan
When two modern-day kids discover a grotesque secret in an abandoned mailbox, they have no idea they are about to be drawn into a mystery that began on the other side of the world. Through the help of an English genie and a phantom postman, the two children begin to communicate with a young calligrapher's apprentice who lived 125 years ago in a small, Himalayan village. Writing back and forth, across continents and centuries, the three children eventually realize the possibility of changing history by delivering three letters that were never received. The first is a love letter that could have drawn a broken-hearted Yankee trader back from his lonely exile in the east. The second is a ransom note, and the third, a cryptic missive in a bottle. If the three can make sure these lost letters reach those for whom they were intended, love may be restored, the life of a kidnapped child could be saved, and a secret agent might be able to prevent a pointless war.
After plagiarizing a homework assignment, Gil gets kicked out of boarding school. His busy parents have no idea what to do with him next and dump him at his grandfather's house for a few weeks before they settle on a new school. At his grandfather's house, Gil becomes bored with the lack of entertainment. While walking, he finds a magic bottle that allows him to correspond with another boy his age, Sikander, in 1896 India. Gil does not understand how it is possible, but he is determined to find the answer. The deeper he digs, the more he realizes it could have something to do with his ancestor who moved to India after a marriage rejection. Alter writes a novel steeped in mystery and magic. He uses local legend, family heritage, and world history to create a suspenseful, ghostly mystery. Gil matures as he looks into his heritage and discovers his own potential. Alter creates Nargis, a girl who helps Gil make sense of the puzzles, and together they create a dynamic duo that is sure to appeal to both genders. The book alternates chapters from Gil's and Sikander's perspective. Nargis and Gil find themselves caught up in a mystery too unbelievable for adults, but they unravel clues along the way to discover the truth. Reviewer: Jennifer Rummel
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
Gr 4-7- Gil, 14, has been expelled from school and sent to the Massachusetts coast to reside with his poetry-loving, eccentric grandfather. The old man doesn't own a television, uses a typewriter, drives a beat-up Volkswagen, and can only offer his grandson a 30-year-old bicycle as transportation. While walking his grandfather's dog, Gil decides to explore Rattle Beach. A curious-looking bottle floating in the water attracts his attention. For a joke, he pens a distress call, places it inside the empty container, and throws it back into the water. Returning later, he finds the bottle again and discovers an urgent message inside it. It is from Sikander, a boy from India who is living 100 years in the past, when a war is brewing. As the two boys continue to correspond, Sikander's family gets into a deadly situation and he begs Gil for help. Other paranormal events include a ghostly mailman, a skeletal hand, a djinn (or genie), and a love affair that spans the centuries. It appears that the events are interrelated, but the teen is not sure how. Readers will empathize with the plight of the characters, but a favorite of many kids, the genie, is not well developed. Also, a few of the plot threads are not fleshed out, but even so, readers will find the book scary enough to thrill and clever enough to challenge their deductive reasoning.-Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL
Meet the Author
Stephen Alter is the son of American missionaries to the Himalayas, and was raised in India and the US. The author of seven books for adults, he is the former writer-in-residence at MIT, and a recipient of a Fulbright grant. He currently lives in India, where he is working on an adult book about Bollywood.
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omg this book is soooo great!!!
After being expelled from McCauley Prep School, Gil's parents send him to live with his poet grandfather in a small, oceanside town in Massachusetts. While exploring the beach one afternoon, Gil finds a blue bottle bobbing on the ocean waves, and, on a whim, writes a note that reads, "Help! I'm stranded on a desert island. Save me!" He puts the note in the bottle, sends it back to the sea, and thinks nothing else of it.
A hundred years earlier, a young calligrapher's apprentice in Ajeebgarh, India, finds the bottle floating in the Magor River...with Gil's message inside! He decides to send back a reply, and the two begin a strange correspondence.
As Gil's grandfather teaches him about the history of their home and the ancestor who built it, Gil befriends a girl named Nargis. The two bond over the eerie appearances of a ghostly hand and letters that were never delivered to their original destinations. Meanwhile, war with the British threatens Ajeebgarh, and Sikander, the apprentice, is desperate to find a way to save his friend, who was kidnapped by British soldiers. Through the help of the mysterious hand, a roving ghost postman, and an English genie sealed in a letter for a hundred years, Gil must find a way to deliver the lost letters and stop the war.
Readers who enjoyed Louis Sachar's HOLES will find a similar format here, with the story hopping between two different time periods and clues scattered throughout. A great read with just the right amount of creepy chill to go with it.