Starry Nights

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Jess was happy when her family lived by the bay, but something is wrong with their new house. Since her family moved, her sister Vida has become wild and furious and believes in all kinds of strange magic. The children begin to suspect there's a ghost in the house. Jess's brother Clem says that he can see her. Too preoccupied and jumpy, he hasn't even unpacked. Their mother is lying sick in her bedroom upstairs and refuses to talk or come out, which is getting on Jess's nerves. The ghost is definitely starting ...
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Overview


Jess was happy when her family lived by the bay, but something is wrong with their new house. Since her family moved, her sister Vida has become wild and furious and believes in all kinds of strange magic. The children begin to suspect there's a ghost in the house. Jess's brother Clem says that he can see her. Too preoccupied and jumpy, he hasn't even unpacked. Their mother is lying sick in her bedroom upstairs and refuses to talk or come out, which is getting on Jess's nerves. The ghost is definitely starting to appear to Jess -- a fast blur in the corner of her eye, the swish of invisible legs keeping step with her own, the skin-crawling feeling that someone is watching. Who is this ghost and with whom does she want to communicate?

Guilty over their older brother's drowning and their mother's subsequent breakdown, fourteen-year-old Vida ventures into the occult but it is ten-year-old Jess who meets the ghost who is trying to help them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This tantalizing ghost story from Australia will keep readers on the edge of their seats. As the novel opens, 10-year-old Jess's family has just moved to an isolated house in a small suburb. Here, it is hoped, Jess's mother can recover from her recent nervous breakdown. The cause of her illness is not named, but it seems connected to Jess's irrational fear of water, older sister Vida's sudden interest in spirits and older brother Clem's private meetings with a mysterious schoolgirl named Amy, who bears an eerie resemblance to one of his mother's childhood friends. A supernatural aura permeates the narrative and grows stronger as Jesse feels that she is being followed by a spectral presence. Meanwhile, Clem experiences a "strange little kernel of cloudy knowledge [that] he might not be around much longer." With masterly skill, Clarke (Night Train; Wolf on the Fold) sprinkles in just enough clues to fan the audience's interest. As pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into place, tension rises at a steady pitch before exploding in a dramatic climax. A spine-tingler with staying power. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Jess does not understand what has happened to everyone in her family. Her mother's "breakdown" has caused her father to try awkwardly to reach out, and her sister, Vida, now lashes out at everyone in the family with a ferocious anger that she never felt before. Perhaps it is their new house, where they moved after her mother became ill. Jess feels that there is an ominous presence here, and as the form of a ghost begins to materialize, she is certain that the spirit's sole purpose is to harm her sister. Brother Clem is so preoccupied that he is unable to remember the name of the village where they lived before or reach out to his sisters. As Vida presses Jess to help her apologize to someone she has harmed, Jess realizes that she must do everything she can to protect her sister. Clarke joins the ranks of writers who meld the spirit world with that of the living. The secret in this book is not revealed until the very end, but many readers will be able to pick up on it as the clues are doled out. That said, this brief book is confusing because of the quick changes in time, space, and worlds, and reluctant readers might become frustrated early on. Better readers who enjoy reading "beyond this world" could appreciate this story line, but they might feel cheated by the "three years later" ending that is presented. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Front Street, 152p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Lynn Evarts
Children's Literature
The Sinclair family has just moved to a new town. The family has become estranged because of the move. After their mother has a mental breakdown, Vida and Jess begin to explore the world of the occult. As Vida slowly becomes obsessed with spirit conjuring, Jess fears that dabbling in the witchcraft will only make life worse. However, it is Jess who actually encounters the ghost. The oldest sibling, Cam, who begins to feel disconnected from the family, struggles to figure out his problems as well. Jess and Cam are the only two who can actually see the ghost that has come to help the family, but they can see her for two completely different reasons. The book is filled with magic, ghost tales from long ago, and vivid imagery of the supernatural. The clear, descriptive writing makes this book engrossing and takes readers on a mystical journey by using ghost stories and spirit incantations. 2003 (orig. 2001), Front Street, Ages 10 to 14.
—Jamie Colwell
Kirkus Reviews
Australian author Clarke deliberately makes it hard to tell who’s alive and who isn’t in this artful tale of a haunted, grief-wracked family. As her mother lies nearly comatose in the wake of a breakdown, ten-year-old Jess not only struggles to cope with her teenaged sister Viva’s violent mood swings and obsession with the occult, but is frightened by repeated ghostly sightings. Meanwhile, big brother Clem, wandering about the house with an oddly fragmented memory, keeps meeting Amy, an inarticulate stranger in antique school dress. Using a paradoxical combination of misdirection and broad hints to keep readers off-balance, the author conceals motives and springs surprises, but brings all ’round right in the end for both survivors and spectral characters. A touching tale for readers who prefer character-driven ghost stories with the merest dashes of eeriness. (Fiction. 10-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781886910829
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 4/5/2003
  • Edition description: First U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 148
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author


Judith Clarke was born in Sydney, Australia and studied at the University of New South Wales and the Austalian National University. She has worked as a teacher, lecturer, and librarian. She began writing novels for young adults when her son was a teenager at high school and she had become fascinated by the battleground between teachers, kids, and parents. She lives in Melbourne.

AWARDS
Wolf on the Fold (2000)
2001 *CBCA Book of the Year

Angels Passing By (1999)
Winner, Family Therapy Award
*CBCA Notable Book

Night Train (1998)
1998 Victorian Premier’s Award
*CBCA Honour Book

The Lost Day (1997)
*CBCA Notable Book

The Ruin of Kevin O’Reilly (1996)
*CBCA Notable Book

Big Night Out (1995)
*CBCA Notable Book

Friend of my Heart (1994)
Human Rights Award
Shortlisted, *CBCA Book of the Year

Al Capsella and the Watchdogs (1989)
Shortlisted, **NSW Premier’s Award

The Heroic Life of Al Capsella (1988)
Shortlisted, **NSW Premier’s Award
ALA Best Book for Young Adults

*CBCA = Children’s Book Council of Australia
**NSW = New South Wales

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