Out of the Wild Night
By Blue Balliett, 2018, Scholastic
Mystery, Ghost story, Ages 8-12
Rating: 👻👻👻1/2 (3.5 out of 4 boos)
“Ghosts are alive on the island of Nantucket. You can hear them in the wind and in the creaks of the old homes. They want to be remembered. And, even more, they want to protect what was once theirs.
The ghosts have chosen a few local kids to save the island against the adults who would do it harm. But the kids can't be sure how the ghosts are going to act. Things tend to disappear when ghosts are around. People tend to get trapped, especially if they're up to no good. Only the kids can make things right, if the ghosts will let them.”
What’s the main character like?
Oh, dear, how do I choose a main character? The book is narrated by a ghost, and with her ability to be many places without being seen, we meet a whirlwind of people—young, old, and dead!—who live on Nantucket Island. But I’m going to focus on Phee here. An avid appreciator of the past, she is one of the local kids trying to stop certain adults who are dead-set on destroying the old-fashioned charm of Nantucket by gutting the old interiors of homes. Often the leader among her friends, she is spirited and adventurous, and she has a heartwarming relationship with her grandfather.
How scary is it?
In spite of all the ghosts roaming around—and not all of them friendly!—this book is not scary. Instead, it is beautiful and whimsical. Told in the voice of Mary, a ghost, Out of the Wild Night immediately puts a fun spin on ghosts: they don't always have to be frightening and can be considered a positive part of the past.
Who might like this book?
I got a Roald Dahl vibe from this book because it is dark yet fun and cute. His fans may like this book. Ghost story fans in general may appreciate this book. Even historical fiction fans may like this book for its old-fashioned Nantucket setting, even though it’s set in the present.
What did I like best?
I love the message of this book, which centers around appreciating and respecting the past. Not everything has to be shiny and new. There are stories behind old things and old places. Keep tradition alive!
What was not so great?
While I don’t know that I would start the book any other way, it does begin in a confusing manner with Mary the ghost being woken up randomly and suddenly tasked with becoming a town crier. It takes a while for the story to get going, and for you to realize it’s going to focus on Phee and the other local kids. I liked the writing craft enough to keep reading, but the sophisticated opening might put off some readers (but don’t let it!).