By Author / Illustrator
Friends and family
Pushkin Children's Books
Paperback / softback
Freja arrives in Singapore during the month of the hungry ghost, when old spirits are said to roam the streets. She's struggling to settle into her dad's new, 'happy' family, and dreams only of escaping home and leaving this hot, unfamiliar city. Then one night, a mysterious girl in a white dress appears in the garden. Freja follows this figure to lush, secretive corners of the city, seeking to understand the girl's identity. Her search will lead her to an old family mystery - one that must be unravelled before the month is over, to allow both girls to be freed from the secrets of the past.
In The Hungry Ghost, Freja arrives in Singapore, sent from Denmark while her mother recovers from a hinted at depression. Staying with her father and his new wife and twin sons, Freja finds Singapore a vastly different world from the one she has left. She struggles with the new 'happy' family and her father working all the time, as well as the heat and difference of the city.
Freja has arrived during the month of the 'hungry ghost', when ghosts are supposed to return to put right wrongs done to them. One night a mysterious girl appears in the garden and Freja follows her and tries to find out who this girl could be. Her search leads to an old family secret and a much newer one.
This book explores a myriad of themes, whilst at the same time being a gripping and exciting story. The descriptions of Singapore are very evocative and the whole book seems to steam with the heat of the city. Freja is a complicated girl, but brave and slightly reckless, and the reader is quickly drawn into her story. This is a family under stress, from being a new family with step-parents, from Freja's mother's depression, from moving countries and from grief. The book also looks at Western attitude to the indigenous population of the area a hundred years ago. The story explores the myths and legends from the area, and they become central to the plot.
Freja's story, that of parental divorce, is one many children will have experienced, and it is handled carefully and realistically. There is tragedy at the heart of this story too, also handled well, and Freja is a magnificent heroine who you cannot help but like. This book is more complex and interesting than just a good story and I think adults will enjoy it as much as children due to this.
256 pages / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+