Overview

Spencer Adams Honesty may be the last best hope for Paisley, Kansas—and for lonely kids everywhere.

Spencer Honesty and his mom are the last people left in Paisley, except for Chief Leopard Frog, Spence’s imaginary friend. One lonely day, Chief Leopard Frog’s carved rabbit talisman tells Spence to take his photo, so Spence digs up his late father’s camera and starts shooting photographs all around his ghost town. When the photos come back ...
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Ghost Town

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Overview

Spencer Adams Honesty may be the last best hope for Paisley, Kansas—and for lonely kids everywhere.

Spencer Honesty and his mom are the last people left in Paisley, except for Chief Leopard Frog, Spence’s imaginary friend. One lonely day, Chief Leopard Frog’s carved rabbit talisman tells Spence to take his photo, so Spence digs up his late father’s camera and starts shooting photographs all around his ghost town. When the photos come back developed, he does not expect to see his old neighbor Maureen Balderson in her bedroom. Or Ma Puttering clearing weeds in her yard. They aren’t in Paisley anymore. Yet there they are.
What happens to Spence next is unexpected. It involves a catalog called Uncle Milton’s Thousand Things You Thought You’d Never Find, a poetry deal gone awry, and a ghost camera that promises to take pictures of the past (just be sure not to photograph yourself).
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After the town is abandoned, the sole residents of downtrodden Paisley, Kans., are precocious 13-year-old Spencer Honesty and his mother, who is still a paid employee of Paisley's post office. Spencer spends his time talking to his make-believe, poetry-writing Indian friend, Chief Leopard Frog, and taking photographs of the empty town. But when ghostly ex-residents appear in his photographs, Spencer begins to see artistic potential in his isolation. Paisley, with its numerous spiders, reptiles and vacated buildings, emerges as just as vivid a character as Spencer; others, including Spencer's departed crush, Maureen, and the wheeling-and-dealing owner of an oddities catalogue who takes an interest in Chief Leopard Frog's carved talismans are more peripheral, developing through letters they exchange with Spencer. Spencer's frequent musings on solitude, art and life are thought provoking and often funny (artists who got famous by painting objects like chairs were simply “stuck in their rooms,” he reasons. “What else was there to look at?”). Despite the need for suspension of disbelief throughout, the highly fortuitous outcome comes across as a stretch—but it's a fun ride getting there. Ages 12–up. (June)
VOYA - Ed Goldberg
Imagine being the last teenager in town. Spencer Adams Honesty knows because he and his mother are the last two people in Paisley, Kansas. The nearest school is thirty miles away so he is home schooled—sort of. To while away the hours, he photographs the town with his ghost camera, so named because each roll of film developed mysteriously includes photos of former or deceased residents. He also converses with his imaginary friend, Chief Leopard Frog, who carves good-luck talismans from bee burl wood and writes bad poetry. Things were dull in Paisley, but as the saying goes, "Beware of what you wish for." Looking through a mail order catalog, Uncle Milton's Thousand Things You Thought You'd Never Find, Spencer sees a listing for a ghost camera. He writes to Uncle Milton, receives a zany response, and soon a correspondence and business develop. Things begin to get busier than Spencer ever imagined and not necessarily in a good way. This novel will make readers chuckle. It is filled with ghosts in photographs, good-luck talismans providing bad luck, pumpkins that look like celebrities, and a smash hit book of bad poetry titled Burl Hives. Spencer's activities are humorous, and the results are sometimes bone shattering. Uncle Milton never appears; however, his letters are hilarious. Chief Leopard Frog is wise, despite his lack of real physical presence and less-than stellar poetic talent. There is adventure and romance, fun and action. Jennings has a talent for humor, and middle school boys and girls will smile as they read his latest effort. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg
Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
Spencer Adams Honesty tells a strange tale about being the last kid left in Paisley, Kansas, after the plastic company closed and businesses and people abandoned the town. He has an imaginary friend, Chief Leopard Frog, with whom he has frequent discussions about his plight. After receiving a gift from the imaginary friend of a carved rabbit talisman, Spencer begins to take pictures around the ghost town. When his mailed-off film is developed, he has an amazing discovery: former people of the community are in the current photos! What has Spence gotten into? While he recovers from injuries sustained from an over-zealous photography session, he orders a catalog, "Uncle Milton's Thousand Things You Thought You'd Never Find." He discovers he can order a ghost camera that promises to take pictures of the past, but Spence already has a camera that takes pictures of the past! After he discovers that his imaginary friend is a poet whose book of poems becomes a best seller and Spence's photographs are in great demand, the future for Paisley's revival looks promising. The reader will empathize with the sadness of the circumstances of the ghost town and enjoy Spence's creativity and humor in dealing with this loss. The author's droll tongue-in-cheek observations throughout the story are delightful. Even some of his absurdities seem plausible in this amusing adventure. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—How do you spend your time when you live in a dead-end town? Spencer Adams Honesty, one-half the population of Paisley, KS, revives his childhood imaginary friend, Chief Leopard Frog, for company and takes up photography. The boy's camera captures the ghosts of Paisley's ex-residents and sets off a chain of wonderfully absurd events. For example, a correspondence with Uncle Milton (President and Proprietor of Uncle Milton's Thousand Things You Never Thought You'd Find novelty catalog) leads to the man's publishing a collection of Chief Leopard Frog's bad poetry, and Spencer's romancing two "older" women (older by a few years) as he takes on the world of art photography by storm. Jennings has a dry wit, and the protagonist's matter-of-fact observations make the most outlandish scenes seem possible. This is a coming-of-age story/tall tale that's full of charm.—Caroline Tesauro, Radford Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Offbeat, quirky, peculiar, unusual-take your pick of adjectives; any (or all) could be used to describe the latest effort of a Midwestern writer known for original characters and unpredictable plots. The question is, how odd is too odd? Certainly the story of Spencer Honesty, last child living in Paisley, Kan., takes some downright bizarre turns. From his long-dead father's old camera, which takes photos of people who aren't there, to Spencer's imaginary friend, Chief Leopard Frog, woodcarver and aspiring poet, to the lucrative relationship Spencer develops with an entrepreneurial ex-pat based in the Cayman Islands, readers won't know quite what to expect next. Not that there's not a loopy kind of logic at work, but sometimes it can be hard to spot. Likewise, Spencer's low-key, first-person narration adds a fillip of humor to the outlandish tale, but some readers may find his deadpan delivery more annoying than amusing. For readers who enjoy Jennings's work, Spencer's adventures will be a welcome addition. Those unfamiliar with the author's style, however, may find themselves working a bit to acquire a taste for it. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
"Offbeat, quirky, peculiar, unusual . . . For readers who enjoy Jennings’s work, Spencer’s adventures will be a welcome addition."—Kirkus Reviews

"Smartly driven along by a sense that just about anything can happen next, the story takes several severe twists from there, culminating in a rush of prizes and huge royalty checks for both the photos and for the wildly popular poems that Chief Leopard Frog writes. Fans of Gary Paulsen’s Lawn Boy (2007) will find this similarly epic rocket to fame and fortune equally stimulating."—Booklist

"It’s a delicious premise—a ghost town coming back to life in dreams and photographs—developed with an accretion of humorous situations and details: a disappearing toe, a pumpkin that looks like Oprah Winfrey, and a poetry-writing imaginary friend named Chief Leopard Frog who whittles bad-luck talismans. And when the Chief’s poetry and Spencer’s ghost camera bring in unexpected wealth, the fortunes of Paisley, Kansas, revive. Readers who can suspend disbelief and appreciate the quirkiness will enjoy Jennings’s story of a ghost town’s unlikely savior."—The Horn Book Magazine

"Paisley, with its numerous spiders, reptiles and vacated buildings, emerges as just as vivid a character as Spencer . . . Spencer's frequent musings on solitude, art and life are thought provoking and often funny . . . it's a fun ride."—Publishers Weekly

"There is adventure and romance, fun and action. Jennings has a talent for humor, and middle school boys and girls will smile as they read his latest effort."—VOYA, (4Q4P)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547488158
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/29/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • File size: 123 KB

Meet the Author

Richard W. Jennings has published more than fifty essays, articles, and short stories, including The Tragic Tale of the Dog Who Killed Himself, published by Bantam Books in 1980 to widespread critical acclaim, in addition to his recent titles published with Houghton Mifflin -- Orwell's Luck, The Great Whale of Kansas, My Life of Crime, and Scribble. He is cofounder of a popular Kansas City-area bookstore and former editor of KANSAS CITY MAGAZINE. He has five children, four grandchildren, a dog, a cat, and a parrot and lives in Kansas.
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