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Ghost Letters

Ghost Letters

5.0 2
by Stephen Alter

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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 another boy, a young calligrapher's apprentice who lived 125 years ago in an Indian


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 another boy, a young calligrapher's apprentice who lived 125 years ago in an Indian 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. If they 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.

Editorial Reviews

AGERANGE: Ages 11 to 15.

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)

Children's Literature - Denise Daley
Letters in a bottle that instantly deliver messages one-hundred years back in time? Magic genies? A skeletal hand that travels through a town crumpling up poorly written papers? All of these mystifying and frightening events materialize while Gil is staying with his Grandfather in a historic New England town. Gil befriends a boy named Sikander who lives in the 1800s in India, by communicating through letters left in a bottle that is then thrown into the ocean. As Gil learns about the problems confronting Sikander, he slowly unravels his own ancestral secrets at the same. Gil slowly discovers that all of these unexplainable occurrences are strangely connected and that they all could have happened differently if only letters that were written long ago had made their intended destination. Can Gil change the past? Can he somehow use the magic that he has recently discovered to help his long deceased friends and relatives? At times the characters are a bit too accepting of the improbable events that occur, but young readers will most likely ignore the unbelievable and simply enjoy this exciting and suspenseful story. Reviewer: Denise Daley
School Library Journal

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

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 Years

Meet the Author

Stephen Alter was raised in India. The author of seven books for adults, he is the former Writer-in-Residence in Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT, and a recipient of a Fulbright grant. Island of the Phantoms is his first book for children. He currently lives in India with his wife, where he is researching his newest book for adults - a behind the scenes look at the world of Bollywood.

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Ghost Letters 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
omg this book is soooo great!!!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
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.