Spellbinder
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Spellbinder

4.4 19
by Helen Stringer
     
 

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Belladonna Johnson just wants to be normal. Okay, she can talk to ghosts, but everyone has their problems. And since her parents are dead—but "living" in their house—this is a pretty convenient problem to have. Then one day, the stars go out. Just for a second. And the ghosts start to disappear . . .
Soon Belladonna and her friend Steve find

Overview

Belladonna Johnson just wants to be normal. Okay, she can talk to ghosts, but everyone has their problems. And since her parents are dead—but "living" in their house—this is a pretty convenient problem to have. Then one day, the stars go out. Just for a second. And the ghosts start to disappear . . .
Soon Belladonna and her friend Steve find themselves on a dangerous quest to the deserted, decaying Other World, where the spirits usually dwell. They need to find out where Belladonna's parents and all the other ghosts have gone—before it's too late.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stringer debuts with an adventurous, darkly humorous ghost story. Twelve-year-old Belladonna Johnson lives an ordinary life, except for the fact that she can see ghosts, including those of her parents, who were killed in a car accident. Other than that, they're still her same old parents (“Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were great believers in the family dinner and just because they were no longer corporeal, they saw no reason to let things slide”). That is, until they disappear, along with all the other ghosts Belladonna has gotten to know. After enlisting her classmate Steve as a sidekick, Belladonna journeys to the Land of the Dead in order to bring back the ghosts; she eventually comes to realize that the fate of the universe is at stake and it's up to her to restore the natural equilibrium of the world. Though Belladonna at times seems like just another generic heroine, Stringer's ability to build a strong sense of mystery, entwined with Western mythology, will pull readers through to the end. Those who like unusual ghost stories without the usual horror will enjoy this book. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Twelve-year-old Belladonna Johnson's parents died a year ago in a car accident, but this is not as terribly sad as it might seem, because Belladonna has the family gift of being able to see ghosts. So Belladonna and her parents continue to live—well, reside—together happily (though it is somewhat unsettling when her father greets her return home from school by poking "his head right through the middle of the wall"). But now, alarmingly, the doors between Belladonna's world and the Other Side have begun to close. It is up to Belladonna to find out how to open them again, accompanied by school troublemaker, Steve, and an annoyingly perky schoolgirl ghost, Elsie. People keep claiming that somebody called "the Spellbinder" will appear to set things right, but what if the much-heralded Spellbinder is none other than clueless Belladonna herself? Stringer's narrative voice is engagingly witty: e.g., "You did not summon me, said Ashe, with the unmistakable dripping sarcasm of the worst kind of Math teacher;" Belladonna's dead grandfather is fond of expressions such as "As I live and breathe!" Stringer makes convincing the idea that a world without ghosts would be "so empty, populated only by the living" that we all need the "unliving" to be part of our lives as well. This debut novel establishes Stringer as a fresh and promising voice in middle-grade fantasy. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Jennifer McConnel
Belladonna Johnson is a quiet, reserved girl who holds herself apart from her classmates—not because she is snobbish or rude but because she is terrified that she would reveal her deepest secret if she had friends. The secret she guards so carefully is that she can see and speak with ghosts. Not just the ghosts of her parents, who died tragically in an accident, but all ghosts. Long-dead ghosts, forgotten ghosts, and modern ghosts fill Belladonna's world until one day, when the ghosts mysteriously vanish, and Belladonna is forced to confide in a classmate in order to solve whatever is wrong on the "other side." With the help of a varied cast of characters, including a Greek oracle, her dead grandfather, and her rather imposing aunt, Belladonna embarks on a magical quest that could either save or destroy the world of the living, not to mention other realms, as well. This charming debut novel blends classic British fantasy with figures usually reserved for horror stories to create a compelling fantasy adventure romp which will appeal to middle grades readers. Although the characters and the quest are strangely reminiscent of the early Harry Potter novels, this book is sure to hook readers and leave them waiting for what must certainly be a sequel, if not a whole series. Reviewer: Jennifer McConnel
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Belladonna Johnson, 12, who has the family trait of seeing ghosts, appreciates the gift after her parents' car accident. They happily haunt the house, her mother still prepares meals, Belladonna still spends evenings watching Staunchly Springs with them, and her daily chore is to pick up a newspaper for her father. But suddenly ghosts start to disappear, including her parents. Elsie Blaine, the young Victorian ghost that haunts Belladonna's school, is the only one around, and even Steve, her mischievous chemistry lab partner, can see her. He becomes Belladonna's amusing sidekick on a quest to discover the truth. In the Land of the Dead, they meet strange Dr. Ashe and discover that he has something to do with the disappearances. Magical creatures, amulets, and verses are all a part of this delightful tale that leads Belladonna and Steve on a deadly adventure. Stringer maintains the humor and logic of preteens who are awkwardly coming into their magical destinies, which makes for an amusing first novel.—Nancy D. Tolson, Mitchell College, New London, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Poor Belladonna. It's so embarrassing when she talks to the ghosts that no one else can see-everyone thinks she's nuts. Since her parents died in a car accident, they've been hanging out at home, which is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. Worse, however, is when they disappear in a flash one day. Belladonna knows she has to do something-but what? The pursuit of the dark side takes off when Belladonna accidentally touches disruptive and smart Steve Evans at school while confronted by the ghostly Elsie. Suddenly Steve can see what she sees, and the intriguing clues that have been steadily arriving at unexplained moments send the duo into the Land of the Dead in search of the Spellbinder. When they're dismissed by the adults who seem to know something, it is, of course, up to Steve and Belladonna to find the answers and solve everything. The disarmingly matter-of-fact tone contrasts with the genuinely scary apparitions and dangers they confront. Wry wit and derring-do add up to a great read. (Fantasy. 9-12)
From the Publisher

“Wry wit and derring-do add up to a great read.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Stringer debuts with an adventurous, darkly humorous ghost story. …Stringer's ability to build a strong sense of mystery, entwined with Western mythology, will pull readers through to the end. Those who like unusual ghost stories without the usual horror will enjoy this book.” —Publishers Weekly

“Stringer maintains the humor and logic of preteens who are awkwardly coming into their magical destinies, which makes for an amusing first novel.” —School Library Journal

“Readers will fear for and cheer for Belladonna Johnson, the hero of this brilliant has-it-all novel, as she tries to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of the world's ghosts. One of the year's best.” —Cookie magazine

“Stringer's charming ghost story defies classification. …A fast-paced plot and intricate world pull the reader along, but it's Bella's love for her parents and her need to keep them with her that linger.” —Booklist

“This charming debut novel blends classic British fantasy with figures usually reserved for horror stories to create a compelling fantasy adventure romp which will appeal to middle grades readers. …this book is sure to hook readers and leave them waiting for what must certainly be a sequel, if not a whole series.” —VOYA

“Stringer's narrative voice is engagingly witty… This debut novel establishes Stringer as a fresh and promising voice in middle-grade fantasy.” —Claudia Mills, Ph.D., Children's Literature

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312387631
Publisher:
Feiwel & Friends
Publication date:
09/29/2009
Series:
Spellbinder Series, #1
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile:
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

"She's home!"

Belladonna's father poked his head out of the sitting room. And that was the problem right there, really. Where most fathers would have poked their heads out of the sitting room door, Mr. Johnson poked his right through the middle of the wall.

"Did you bring the paper?"

Belladonna looked at him reprovingly. He immediately vanished back into the sitting room and reappeared in the doorway.

"Sorry," he said. "I forgot. Did you bring the paper?"

"Honestly, Dad, anyone passing by could've seen you through the window!" He took the paper and turned back into the sitting room with a shrug.

"No one can see me. Only you."

Belladonna followed him in, exasperated. "Gran can see you. Lots of people can see ghosts, you see them talking about it on TV all the time."

"Charlatans," muttered her father, settling down an inch above his favorite chair.

Meet the Author

HELEN STRINGER grew up in Liverpool, England, and currently lives in Northern California. Here in the U.S., she studied film, winning several student film awards, and was a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies. This is her first novel.

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Spellbinder 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
This was a cute book that I read in a few hours, as I didn't want to set it down. Belladonna makes a good heroine, and I enjoyed her growing friendship with Steve and how they learned to work together. They were joined in their adventure by Elsie, one of the few remaining ghosts left. One minor thing that annoyed me is how almost every child in YA fiction would rather jump into the deep end rather than ask adults for help. Granted, Belladonna's grandmother and aunt kept blowing her off when she tried to talk to them, but I'm sure they would have listened had she told them the important information! I did like that Belladonna, Steve, and Elsie did not have all the answers and seemed like believable 12 year olds, getting cranky when things didn't work out and bickering at each other when they were frustrated and tired. Even though Elsie was a ghost, she was still a girl and I enjoyed the trio's growing friendship. Gave this one a 4/5 rating as I enjoyed the story, liked the characters, and thought that overall it was well done. There were a few references I'm not sure the 9-12 age group would understand (Paladin, the Wild Hunt, oracles, etc.) but they can always check online. I'm looking forward to a sequel, as Ms. Stringer left the ending open enough for another adventure! If you enjoy YA books at all, I recommend this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
4.5 Spellbinder is complex, interesting, and way beyond the average middle grade read. Helen Stringer incorporates a great deal of mythology to make her story work, but it's never overwhelming or confusing. She flawlessly mixes mythology into Belladonna's journey to save her parents and return the ghosts to the world, while giving the reader a great deal to ponder, in regards to life, death, and everything that comes after. Belladonna is everything a normal 12 year old girl should be, aside from the small detail that she can see ghosts, and is very cut off from others because of it. Her parents are dead, but she lives with them, going about her everyday life with ghost parents. Sure, they still chat with her and can even cook for her, but they can't touch her and no one outside her family knows they're there. That kind of existence is rather depressing; and when Belladonna's parents disappear, she could easily close herself off, but she doesn't. She fights. Along with her is Steve Evans, her always-in-trouble classmate. Where Belladonna is rational and obviously intelligent, Steve is sarcastic, rude, and surprisingly inventive. This otherwise dark story is lightened by Steve's joking. Whenever Belladonna seems down, he tends to lift her up. Their back and forth dialogue is one of the strongest aspects of the book. Belladonna and Steve are supported by a few ghosts, some riddles, a magical ruler, and an overall compelling plotline. Each little detail comes back into play for the climax, and while the finale isn't action-packed and beyond thrilling, it left me happy with the end result. Spellbinder is a must-read for fans of ghosts, fantasy, or just all-around great middle grade stories. Anyone could enjoy it with its strong, lively characters (even the dead ones are lively) and original premise. The story starts off a bit slow, but is unlike any other ghost story out there. Helen Stringer has infused Spellbinder with a lot of heart and it shows. I'll be reading the sequel, The Midnight Gate, very soon!
Jonah Edson More than 1 year ago
This book will wake you want to read more and more till the very end the book is great to read with your family this book will not make you never read again if you do not like this type of book once you read spellbinder it will change your idea of a great book so bind yourself around spellbinder today you will not be sorry
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
This is a very entertaining book filled with delightful characters engrossed in unstoppable action. Belladonna Johnson sits down to breakfast everyday with the spirits of her dead parents. Unlike her friends, she can see all the dead spirits in her town. That is until they start to disappear before her eyes. She will need all the help she can get from her classmate, Steve, who's major accomplishment so far is his penchant for getting in trouble. They follow the lost souls to the Land of the Dead, where Belladonna and Steve must master new found skills in magic and find new depths of courage to free the imprisoned spirits. The book is very well written. The action scenes and the dialogue flow smoothly and naturally, being well suited to hold the interest of older children and young adults. A great ghost tale for Halloween.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was soooooo amazing or as i said like ten seconds awsimetastic
Jackie Daigneau More than 1 year ago
Awesoe
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite series and it is awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing!!!!! i couldnt put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it and cant wait to read the third book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this book good or bad?