Dying to Meet You, written by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise, is a very interesting little book. It tells the tale of Mr. Grumply, an author with a strong case of writer’s block who moves into a new house in the hopes of curing his problem, Seymour Hope, a young boy abandoned in the house by his parents, and Olive C. Spence, the ghost living in the house.
What’s really interesting, though, is how the book is told: rather than prose, the book is comprised of a series of letters (and the occasional newspaper page) written by the book’s characters, major and minor. This style suits the book perfectly, and helps excuse one of the inherent flaws in books for young kids, that of character development/complex characters. As the book is just a series of letters, the plot is relegated to talking and retrospection, which is handled remarkably well–with some strangely detailed letters from a private detective aside, I never felt like I was reading a list of events or a character’s thoughts poured into a letter for no discernible reason.
There is a serious problem with the house I’ve rented. A young boy is living on the third floor.
I encountered him for the first time this morning when I was familiarizing myself with the house. The boy was in a tiny room on the third floor that can be reached only by climbing the most perilous staircase and then creeping down a crooked hallway. The entire house is arranged in this same higgledy-piggledy style. Whoever designed it must’ve been half batty. (pg 26)
Surprisingly, the book actually has good characterization (at least for a kids’ book that doesn’t make use of prose). Though the characters (named in a series of puns ranging from good (Paige Turner, Anita Sale) to bad (Fay Tality)) are still largely one-dimensional, they do have the air of sort-of-real people to them and both Mr. Grumply and Olive Spence actually have flaws–a concept that seems foreign to many writers, let alone children’s’ book writers.
I don’t really want to go much into the plot here, as the book clocks in at about 150 pages (less if you take into consideration the often-times large font and frequent non-space for addresses and ends of letters), but suffice to say that it’s interesting enough to be original and intriguing, while still containing many common themes of kids’ books. It’s certainly better than I might have expected, and the ending manages to conjure up some nice sentimentality.
So, time for stars!
If you put Dying to Meet You up to high standards, it’s probably only worth three stars. However, for what it is (a short, light read), it’s surprisingly good and, well, I enjoyed it without feeling it was a bad book, and that’s all it needed to be.