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Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help    by Douglas Anthony Cooper order for
Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help
by Douglas Anthony Cooper
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Milrose Munce is a genius schoolboy who not only sees ghosts but regularly converses with them, to the disquietude of those around him. His school, in fact, is full of the wraiths of students, who came to their untimely ends there (one has to wonder about the institution's safety standards).

Milrose likes some (especially the 'dear decayed' science nerds on the third floor like his friends Cryogenic Kelvin and Deeply Damaged Dave); avoids others (particularly the pale and pompous phantoms on the second floor and the basement ghouls who used to be athletes and have no time for him); and feels very uncomfortable on the haunt-free first floor. His school life continues merrily along - he associates with the Unwanted and insults his teachers (except for the magnificent Caroline Corduroy) so cleverly that they don't realize he's done so - until one day, the guidance counsellor gleefully informs Milrose that he's slotted for the dreaded Professional Help.

Before it begins, Milrose meets self-assured young Arabella, and discovers that she's been assigned the same dire fate and also sees spectres. After Massimo Natica leads them through a solid wall to his cozy den, they're subjected to weeks of his boring and most unprofessional techniques, staying overnight in stacked bunk beds. Their escape plots are foiled. But luckily they still have friends, in the spirit if not in the flesh, to come to the rescue. Arabella whispers flirtatious comments to the dead jocks in the basement, while Milrose makes contact with Deeply Damaged Dave, who's been experimenting with ghost chemistry. Poisoned Percy recites execrable verse at great length, and Indomitable Sledge, the sole survivor of past Professional Help, gets his revenge.

Adults will enjoy the clever plays on words and satire on education - especially on professional help - while kids will appreciate the ghostly antics as well as Milrose and Arabella's combined intellectual superiority and emotional vulnerability.

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