Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norris has the shape and size of a pocket book – a bit like those indispensable guides on how to fight crocodiles or survive in a desert on a diet of nothing but cactus.
Like them, it carries important, life saving information. So in one way it’s a big book. It concerns the circumstance of a child’s death, a theme which should by rights be heavy and yet it’s lightness of touch is what makes Andrew Norriss’s book so special and very importantly, keeps it accessible to its 8 year olds and upwards readership.
The story begins with a chance meeting between Francis, a boy teased at school for his love of fashion and Jessica, a ghost who can’t remember the circumstance of her death and who has the ability to wear any clothes she likes, so long as she can picture them in her head. It’s a meeting that surprises both of them. Francis has never met a ghost before and Jessica has never met someone who can see or hear her. Finding out the reason why this might be, provides us with the plot.
The story – a mix of mild detective sleuthing and feel good friendships – is written in clean precise prose and is nimble enough to keep one step ahead of you. It’s one of those satisfying books that deepens our understanding of its theme every time the plot twists and it holds at its heart both a profound sadness and an inextinguishable hope.
I’m a firm believer in children’s books tackling big issues that adults would prefer they didn’t know about. Jessica’s Ghost does this and it doesn’t put a foot wrong.
So if your school library hasn’t yet got a copy, I suggest you get one. Jessica’s Ghost is a guide to survival. And it’s just the right size to fit in the pocket of that child who wanders away to eat their lunch alone.