Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Until very recently, my favorite book of all time was the 1959 Newbery Medal book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin, 1958). I still love it, and I will always love it.

But now, I have a new favorite: Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan, illustrated by Brian Selznick (Dial, 2005). I first read the novel some months ago and have been waiting impatiently until just before Valentine’s Day to highlight it.

From the promotional copy: “When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over. What could possibly matter now when Marly is gone? So when Valentine’s Day approaches, it makes sense that this day that was once so meaningful to Ben leaves him feeling bitter and hollow. But then Marly shows up—or at least her ghost does–along with three others spirits. Now Ben must take a painful journey through Valentine’s Days past, present, and future, and what he discovers will change him forever.”

I read so many wonderful books. What is it about this novel? What for me puts it above the rest?

It’s always a deeply personal equation–what the reader brings to the story, what the story brings to the reader.

I appreciate a great ghost story. I also love contemporary retellings of classics. I am oddly enchanted by Dickens in general and A Christmas Carol (1843) in particular. And I’m an optimistic romantic.

David’s writing is top notch, his “remix” approach is delightful, and Brian’s illustrations are a reminder of why he is one of our most acclaimed illustrators.

But more specifically, David has somehow evoked for me what love is and magically translated it into story. The result is healing, inspiring, and, yes, a little bit spooky.

Happy (Almost) Valentine’s Day!

Cynsational Notes

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin, 1958). From the promotional copy: “Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1867. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty. Elizabeth George Speare’s Newbery Award-winning novel portrays a heroine whom readers will admire for her unwavering sense of truth as well as her infinite capacity to love.”