Ask a Bookseller: Crime-solving, ghost-hunting pet capers 

This week’s recommendation for kid readers has a “Secret Life of Pets” vibe, and it comes from Angela Whited of Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul.

“The Great Ghost Hoax” by Emily Ecton.
“The Great Ghost Hoax” by Emily Ecton and illustrations by David Mottram.
Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Whited recommends the novel “The Great Ghost Hoax” by Emily Ecton, with spot illustrations by David Mottram. It came out Sept. 7. 

Butterbean the dachshund and her housemates, Oscar the mynah bird, Walt the cat, and Marco and Polo the rats are looking for their next adventure, having previously pulled off an amazing apartment heist (more on that in a minute). So, when first a human neighbor, then a rat neighbor, burst into their living room with news of a haunted apartment upstairs, they are ready to take the case.

There are challenges, of course: The pets have to work their investigation around some professional ghost hunters who show up. Also, it’s up to Butterbean, as the one pet who gets taken out for walks, to remember the details of leaving the apartment. Butterbean is a good dog, but she’s not all that smart, and not all that key information gets remembered. 

Author Ecton is a former writer and producer on NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and Whited says the jokes are hilarious. She says the story is written at a fourth grade level, but “there's nothing in it that makes it too scary or too edgy or to anything to read to a younger reader” who is reading or listening along. 

“The Great Ghost Hoax” is the sequel to “The Great Pet Heist.” That novel came out in 2020, but Whited says it has been largely on back-order, so this fall is a great chance to pick up both books at once. 

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