by Anna Rabhan
In dozens of pictures of her school visits that Jane R. Wood loves to show guests, one notices the kids’ intent stares and delighted smiles. What could have group after group of 9- to 14-year-olds so entranced? Lately, it’s been Wood’s newest book Ghosts on the Coast: A Visit to Savannah and the Low Country.
In this fourth book in the Johnson kids series, 14-year-old Joey, 10-year-old Bobby, and 5-year-old Katy accompany their mom on a summer vacation trip. The Florida family first visits Savannah, Georgia and experiences the city’s history through its cemeteries, architecture and, most importantly, its intriguing stories of ghosts, pirates, waving girls and more. The Johnson kids are mesmerized. But when Joey and Katy think they hear ghostly voices from one of the beautiful, old homes, history really comes alive!
Their travels take them next to Charleston, South Carolina. The kids learn how a city’s landscape plays a role in its history and hear more tales of pirates, ghosts, disasters and battles. Katy has her own encounter with a ghostly figure, and the kids learn about the will to survive that a city’s residents can have.
Pawleys Island is the family’s last stop. They get to know the neighbors during their stay, and the two families explore Gullah culture and traditions together. They also learn a lot about marine life preservation when they watch a sea turtle lay her eggs. Things get exciting when Bobby’s stubborn streak gets him and his new friend into some real danger. Readers will be anxious to know how the ghost of the Gray Man fits in!
Ghosts on the Coast is filled with humor. In one of the cemeteries in Savannah, Bobby says, “Someone’s got to liven this place up. Get it, liven it up?” It’s no wonder that Bobby calls the trickster Br’er Rabbit his hero. With all of the humor and excitement of ghosts and pirates, kids won’t even realize they’re making connections with history, geography, nature and even architecture. What’s more, the book models the positive, respectful relationship between the children and their mother, conflict resolution between the siblings, their social interactions with people they meet along the way, and the consequences that can come from not following the rules.
How does Wood pack so many important lessons into a 163-page children’s book and hold on to her reader’s interest to the end? “Kids love ghost stories,” she says. “I use ghosts as a hook to capture kids’ imaginations, and then I weave history and local color into the story so they learn something about our country’s heritage.” Jacob Wetzel, a 9-year-old fan of Wood’s books from Virginia, says, “The books are interesting to me because the stories are about boys and girls that are my age. I also like reading stories about adventures in real places.”
Wood always meticulously researches her books. In fact, she spent about six months researching Ghosts on the Coast before beginning to write. It’s this attention to detail that won her a Mom’s Choice Award for her second and third books, Adventures on Amelia Island: A Pirate, A Princess, and Buried Treasure and Trouble on the St. Johns River, and garnered placements and endorsements for her books from all the major locations and organizations she mentions.
Ghosts on the Coast:
by Anna Rabhan