The Ghosts of Malhado by H.J. Ralles


The Ghosts of MalhadoChildrenReview by Molly

H.J.  Ralles’ The Ghosts of Malhado begins as Alex scours the sands for a sand dollars to add to his collection.  He is a tad baffled as he hears a mournful whisper, “Malhado”.

The sun was sinking over Christmas Bay, the sky filled with the beauty of sunset, and Alex knew he was alone on the beach.  So, who was uttering that mournful cry?

Setting aside his curiosity Alex knew he had better head back to the beach house where his family was enjoying their vacation, Mom had allowed him to stay on the beach a little longer as she left to ready dinner, but, she sure didn’t mean he could stay so long.  Alex raced town the lights showing from windows in the houses in Treasure Island.

As he neared the little bridge protecting the dunes Alex was astonished to see a bright flash of red light and then blue.  The sand dollar fell from his hand.

Alex apprehensively stared at the face of a man in strange dress standing on the bridge, the odd metal hat he wore above his face, wait no face, sunken eyes, a hole for a nose, his teeth bore a blue tinge… the light from Jolly Roger Road behind him seemed to pass right through the stranger’s body.

Thus begins Alex’ summer adventure in which he falls and is not allowed to go back to beach until his mother is sure he is okay; he becomes aware of local lore concerning the area he has been visiting each summer; begins to doubt what is real and what is not following that fall in which he bumps his head; sees, more than once  what he believes to be a ghost; relies on neighbor friend Juliann to help him uncover the mystery; has several close calls, in part in trying to not let his mom learn that he has ventured out on the sand when he is supposed to be convalescing, visits the local library and learns some of the history of the area, meets a local real estate vendor who knows much of the story of the, and at last begins to realize that what we know for certain may or not be as it really is.

The ‘adventure’ portion of the book culminates on page 161, and is followed with a pictorial introduction to the setting of the mystery.  Color photos of Treasure Island San Luis Pass, the bridge-board walk over the dune, and various of the sites and buildings mentioned in the adventure provide good clarity for the reader.

Part 2 includes a short biography with addition of color illustration showing Cabeza de Vaca himself begins on page 166 and culminates on page 174.  Page 175 begins a short narrative regarding the next 300 years following the anecdote regarding de Vaca, again photographs are added including a plat of the city of San Luis, photos of personages who play a part in the story itself, and enough narrative to whet the appetite of those who enjoy history.

Pages 189 and 190 offer a ‘San Luis Island Timeline.’   Part 3 asks the question, “Where was San Luis Island, Texas, offers an outline map of Texas, a depiction of the 1853 survey done of the area, and a map showing the area as it appears today.

Pages 196 -202 consider ‘The Malhado Debate’, a poem pinned in 2010 by David Devancy who has spent many years traveling the pirates’ route from Galveston, to Treasure Island and beyond.

Author Ralles offers sources including books, maps, plats and photos, articles and websites she used before she began writing this tale.

Page 202 is the author page upon which this teacher turn writer reveals something of motivation, and includes a web address for those who want to continue their journey with her and many works written for middle grades and young adult readers.

True this is book with middle grades and young adults as the target audience,  however, I too am a teacher, and enjoy reading books meant for the Kindergarten and on through High School crowd.

The Ghosts of Malhado is a work I have shared with readers 4th grade and beyond, and have yet to find a ‘kid’ reader who is not drawn into the tale as it is read, my copy shows nice ‘loving’…. Books that remain pristine, I find, are the ones kids do not read.   A book in the classroom or library showing wear IS a book that is read, I want my students to read the books I bring to share with them.

The book sent for review is a hard cover binding, I think a paperback might be less cumbersome for carrying in a back pack

The few instances that I see of Spanish, perhaps misspoke, I explain and we go on, it is good for children to realize that word by word translation of a language not our own allows the reader to grasp the intent of the words.  I also mention what the phrase may be when spoken by actual native speakers.

I enjoyed meeting Alex, Julieann and their friends and acquaintances, formed nice mental pictures of the situations and settings as I read, and thoroughly enjoyed the fast paced narrative woven around an old story regarding the particular setting of San Luis Treasure Island, Texas.

I see use for this book in middle grades as students work to understand some of the geography of our country, maps help put narrative and locations in perspective.

Enjoyed the Read, happy to recommend.

More books by H.J. Ralles

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