Thanks to Kidlit Exchange and Jollyfish Press (seriously, how do you make it that every book you release this year is totally awesome?) for the advance review copy of debut author Lisa Schmid’s Middle Grade fantasy/mystery OLLIE OXLEY AND THE GHOST – THE SEARCH FOR LOST GOLD. All opinions are mine, but you probably don’t read as much as I do.
Twelve-year-old Ollie Oxley has just moved – again, thanks to his mom’s ever-changing job as a theatre manager. The only guy and only introvert in the house, all the moving is definitely a thorn in his side.
While historic Granite City, CA was home to the Gold Rush and his mom’s childhood home… it’s not 1849 anymore. The small town is run by the unkind Kelly family, whose daughter Aubrey bullies Ollie in school while her mom tries to buy out Mom’s employer, the Bingley Theater, and run the Oxleys out of town.
Enter the only kid with the guts to befriend Ollie: Teddy. He can’t remember his last name and dresses funny, but he is a ghost after all. If only Teddy can remember where his Pa buried his gold, maybe Ollie’s mom can save her job and keep the family in one place for once. With the help of eccentric history buff Miss Sally, branded a weirdo for her own childhood friendship with Teddy, the boys dig into the mystery with a brilliant combo of brains and magic.
The climax of the story is so jarring – Aubrey frames Ollie for vandalism and has him suspended, while nobody comes to his aid – that the reader almost forgets about the gold. Schmid’s twists and turns make a believable but happy ending a surprise, and something I should have guessed but didn’t.
This book will resonate, somewhere between bittersweet and empowering, with kids whose parents are precariously employed and/or whose family livelihoods are dependent on malicious people. (Hit home for me? Excuse you? I’m… way older than 12…)
Give to fans of Chris Grabenstein’s HANGING HILL and other Haunted Mysteries (though Ollie’s story is not as dark), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Gorman Korman.
It wasn’t clear whether or not this was a series, but let’s just say that with that ending, there’s definite potential, and I would be here for it.
OLLIE OXLEY AND THE GHOST – THE SEARCH FOR LOST GOLD goes on sale June 18, 2019.