KPE Episode 83 - "Portable Ghosts" by Margaret Mahy
KeeVin from Room 18 has read this book and he is interviewed by his classmate Lorenz. They are both in Year 6. This is another delightfully original story from Margaret Mahy, one of the world’s best-loved authors.
In Portable Ghosts, Margaret Mahy skilfully blends modern technology, humour, suspense, human values, sibling relationships, boy-girl friendship, and mystery, into a fast-paced adventure story. The idea that ghosts can be carried around and actually become portable is a novel, very clever, and slightly zany addition to the ghost story genre. We don't think this story will give students nightmares, but it is cool to see how computer technology is a major part of the plot. What do you think?
This is what happens in the plot:
Ditta is a twelve-year-old girl who likes to get things sorted out in her mind. She is curious, logical and believes that sitting down in front of a computer forces you to apply logic to a problem. She has, in fact, the best characteristics of a detective and just loves a good mystery.
Ditta has a mystery on her hands. Recently, every time she visits the school library she sees a flickering image of a boy reading a book in the corner of the room but no one else can see him. She confronts the ghost and to her surprise it answers her question before disappearing. Ditta is determined to get to the bottom of this. Her research determines that the school library is a converted old house where many years ago, a young boy – Hilly Saffron – slipped and fell to his death while reading a book on the roof.
Further conversations with the ghost reveal that he haunts the book he was reading at the time of his death. With the ghost’s help, Ditta locates the book in an old library cupboard and by slipping the book into her backpack, she is able to carry the ghost around with her – a portable ghost.
Ditta is worried about the uncharacteristic brooding behaviour of her friend Max and discovers that he is absolutely terrified by twisting floorboards in his bedroom and an angry ghost who tries to escape from his computer screen whenever he turns it on. Ditta immediately sees that this is another ghost needing to come to terms with its past. She enlists the help of her portable ghost to help solve the mystery of this ghost’s violent behaviour. Her young computer geek sister, Mirabel, manages to capture the ghost on a floppy disk and with both Portable Ghosts in tow, they enlist the help of an eccentric local identity to research the history of the angry ghost. It transpires the ghost was a harsh and cruel ship’s officer called Blake who was killed by some of his shipmates and buried with a tree planted over him. Over the years he became part of the tree, which generations later was cut down and used for the floorboards in Max’s bedroom.
Both ghosts exchange stories and realise they are part of history. Max and Ditta tell their stories as part of a homework project, which allows the ghosts to rest more easily. Hilly and Blake even agree to help Ditta, Max and Mirabel with a new detective agency venture to help people who are haunted by ghosts, and help ghosts come to terms with history.