Monday, February 10, 2020

Scholastic book cover: "Mystery of the Piper's Ghost"

  • Title: Mystery of the Piper's Ghost
  • Author: Zillah K. MacDonald (1885-1979)
  • Illustrator: Charles Beck
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services (TX 102)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Year: Fourth printing, 1965.
  • Pages: 156
  • Format: Paperback
  • Provenance/destination: Pretty sure I picked this up at a used book sale. I'm always perusing the 1960s and 1970s Scholastic titles. After this post is finished, the book is headed for a Little Free Library.
  • Exclamation mark-filled back-cover blurb: "From the pool near an old mine emerged the Piper's Ghost, moaning dreadfully! Michael Cunningham, an orphaned boy, stared at the glowing creature with horns on its head, a bagpipe under its arm, and webbed feet. Who or what was this weird creature? What was it doing in the mine? The unmasking of the Piper's Ghost and a daring rescue from the blazing mine climax this story of suspense!"
  • There are some proto-Scooby Doo vibes there. Yes. There's even, coincidentally, a character named Velma.
  • First sentences: "Hi, Michael! Lend a hand!"
  • Last sentence: He was sure of that now.
  • Random sentence from middle: Cy Sullivan's Band was marching bravely forward through the dark underground passages of old Kejimakujee.
  • Kejimakujee? It's possibly an alternate spelling of Kejimkujik, a park and lake in Nova Scotia.
  • Notable names and phrases: One character is called a "mincing minikin" and there's a dog named Beelzebub. The dog's owner calls Beelzebub an "old mumbudget." The phrase "old mazards" is also used, with its usage implying that it's an insult or even a mild vulgarity. Finally, there's a talking crow named Desdemona.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.4 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2015, "C" wrote: "There is also friendship forged with a hermit, away from whom most parents have steered their youngsters. He is so bizarre, anyone would find him enthralling, including me! A flurry of events with him and at the sinister lagoons are exciting, whether it is otherworldly or not."
  • Rating on Amazon: 3.8 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2011, The Grey Piper wrote: "The particular gripes I would level at this story are first, that it just seems very long, drawn-out, and a bit haphazard. Second, quite a bit covers Michael's misadventures with the older bad boys; he is involved with lobster poaching, vandalism, and theft. Some of this seems a bit intense for the target audience. The final chapters, with a bunch of the kids trapped in the burning mine, seems especially graphic. But further, Michael's own continuing participation in these shenanigans seems a bit far-fetched. How many times does the local Mountie have to come and grill you before you quit the nonsense?"
  • About the author: Her full name was Zillah Katherine MacDonald, and she was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the late 19th century. Her Goodreads biography includes this interesting note: "Eileen's Adventures In Wordland (1920) is her first novel, a real delight for lovers of wordplay. Eileen's companion, X, leads her to encounters ranging from meeting Blighty, a word born during the first World War, to Grandmother Indo-European, who introduces Eileen to a number of her language children."


  1. I love those Scholastic mystery books. I have a number myself, but haven't seen this one. I love the idea of putting them in the Little Library to introduce to a new generation. I wonder if kids still like to read books like that. My own kids' Scholastic flyers are absent of anything like this. I never did get our Little Library built this year, shooting for this year. My intent was to populate it with Scholastic books from my collection as well.

    1. Yes, I have a great weakness for Scholastic paperbacks from the 1970s and earlier. I have it down to the 8 or 10 titles that I want to keep because they're from my childhood or are otherwise interesting. The others I'm happy to peruse, occasionally blog and pass along to Little Free Libraries or book sale collections. I have no idea if kids these days read them, but you can't know until you put a book in front of someone. While the Scholastic books of the past might not have been diverse (author and topic wise) as today, I think it was probably easier for authors to get into the Scholastic flyers. Nowadays, it seems like it's a bigger-money world, with authors and publishers elbowing to get high-profile series in front of the Scholastic audience.