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Reviewed by Fiona Ingram for Readers' Favorite
Oliver and the Little Ghost by Andy Klein is the second book in The Fantastic Adventures of Oliver Phenomena series. Right away young readers are told that Oliver is a very different little boy, one with the ability to attract "unusual encounters with curious things." Since Oliver and his dad are off to stay at Aunt Katrina’s spooky mansion, and look after the place while she is away in London, there’s no doubt that weird things are going to happen. After all, a spooky mansion could hold any number of amazing secrets! Aunt Katrina also believes the mansion is haunted and she asks Oliver’s dad to take photos, and maybe capture evidence of any unusual happenings. He does so, but none of the pictures shows anything out of the ordinary. But Oliver sees something, or rather, he sees someone. He spies a little boy in olden day clothing on the staircase. Oliver’s dad can’t see anyone though. The ghostly little boy, named Austin, is very safety conscious and that’s a good thing. Young readers will learn how Austin’s safety measures prevent accidents. Oliver had marvellous fun with Austin, although his dad wasn’t quite sure about things...
This is a really sweet and entertaining story about a number of themes. Oliver is different and it’s a refreshing idea that a young child can see things that adults can’t, and also reminds us of how, as we get older, we lose some of the ‘magic’ in life. Oliver is brave and curious, and he isn’t afraid of things that he might not initially understand. He takes the step to make friends with Austin, and so they both have a wonderful time together, despite the fact that Oliver is a real boy and Austin is a ghostly one. The theme of safety measures is actually very interesting as Austin’s actions point out just how easily mishaps can occur in the home.
Images are a very important part of a child’s reading experience and here this book shines. The illustrations by Ronaldo Florendo are simply done, are very brightly coloured, and depict the events in detail. The expressions are just superb, and young readers will enjoy the pictorial experience of Oliver’s ghostly adventure as much as reading or listening to the story. I also liked the fact that there is a "This book belongs to ____" in the beginning, to encourage the young reader to make the story their own. The reading level is simple and easy to understand. It would have been nice to discover a bit more about Austin, why he was still living in the old mansion, and what had happened in his life. But perhaps that’s food for another adventure for young Oliver, a very unusual boy!