The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It's waiting for Candice Miller.
When Candice finds the letter, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Grandma tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.
So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues in the letter. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the summer ends? --from the publisher
352 pages 978-0545946179 Ages 8-12
*********** "A clever puzzle, a hidden treasure, and a couple of kids you'll wish were your friends...Dive in!" - Sara Pennypacker, author of Pax
When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.
So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?--from the publisher
The house in Atlanta has to be renovated before they can sell it. Candice and her mother decide to move out to a town called Lambert, where her grandmother had been the City Manager until the night she had the city workers dig up the city tennis courts in search of a rumored treasure.Now it's Candice and her new friend and neighbor, Brandon, who are on the trail of James Parker and millions of dollars.
In a summer of friendship, a gay boy finding himself, a bully, a chance to save her house, Candice is claiming her heritage, her past and is defining more clearly her sense of self.
Flashbacks to the 1950s and the civil rights movement deliver depth and the truth of American history.
Woven together this story is a moving journey of pride, a great mystery and the past brought forward to be honored. A triumph.
Recommended by Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
“Although the decision did not succeed in fully desegregating public education in the United States it put the Constitution on the side of racial equality and galvanized the nascent civil rights movement into a full revolution.”
--thirteen.org “Brown v Board of Education” (1954)
“I don’t want to be your tiger
‘Cause tigers play too rough
I don’t want to be your lion
‘Cause lions ain’t the kind you love enough
I just want to be your teddy bear”
-- Elvis with the song that was #1 on the Billboard charts on August 10, 1957, the day of the secret tennis match that changed the town forever.
THE PARKER INHERITANCE is the fictional tale of a brutal racial incident in Lambert, South Carolina in 1957. Events are set in motion when the coach of the tennis team at the town’s Black high school challenges the coach of the tennis team at the town’s white high school to an unauthorized, middle-of-the-night match between their respective teams. =
At the center of the story are Big Dub, the Black coach at the Black high school, and Reggie, the best player he’s got--a young man with secrets. The portions of the book that are set in 1957 are told from the point of view of multiple characters who either participated in that tennis match, were there to see it, or were otherwise connected to the game or the subsequent attacks. The town suffers as the result of that night’s horrible conflict.
But that’s just the story within the story. THE PARKER INHERITANCE is also the present-day story of Candice and Brandon, two Black tweens who have just gotten to know one another. They meet when Candice, with her mother, temporarily moves into her late Grandma’s old house in Lambert. That’s right across the street from the home of Brandon, his mom, and his grandfather, Mr. Gibbs. Brandon is frequently bullied by schoolmates and can certainly use a good friend. He and Candice develop a beautiful, caring partnership as they search for a buried treasure. They are aided in their quest by Brandon’s big sister, who has a car and a good heart.
The treasure hunt starts when Candice, exploring the attic of Grandma’s house, discovers a box with her own name on it. In the box is an old letter that Grandma received from a stranger, offering clues to an unsolved $40 million mystery. The mystery and treasure are connected to the events on that terrible night in 1957 in Lambert.
Years ago, Candice’s grandmother failed in her own attempt to locate the treasure. Grandma lost her city job because of it. Now it’s Candice’s turn to search for it.
The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between the events of 1957, and Candice and Brandon’s contemporary search to solve the letter’s puzzle and find the Parker millions. The new friends begin seeking clues and information:
“Mr. Gibbs poured iced tea into a mason jar. ‘Alright, what do you want to know?’ he asked.
‘Did you know the Allens?’ Brandon asked.
Mr. Gibbs whistled. ‘Ah, the Allens. Russell Allen passed away a few years after we moved here. He was an important man.’ He settled at the table. ‘Of course, I didn’t really know him. The Allens were a whole different type of white people. A little too blue-blood for us regular folks. From what I understand, Russell’s daughter ran the family business after he died. She was the only halfway decent one. Most black folks steered clear of Russell Allen’s sons.’
‘Do they still live in town?’ Candice asked.
Maybe a few cousins. But the ones with all the money, Russell Allen and his kids, have died or have moved away.’ He paused to drink his tea. ‘Not that they were really that rich in the end.’
‘Because they lost some contracts?’ Candice asked.
‘As a matter of fact, that’s right.’ Mr. Gibbs placed his glass on the table. ‘Who told you that?’
‘I...um...found some documents in Grandma’s attic that mentioned it. ‘That’s, um, how I got roped into Brandon’s project. What about a man named Enoch Washington? Have you ever heard of him or his wife, Leanne? Candice wasn’t even going to try to say Siobhan’s name.
Rudolph Gibb’s forehead furrowed so his eyebrows bunched together. He wiped some condensation from the glass. ‘ I didn’t know him. We moved here long after he’d been…’
‘We know,’ Candice said. ‘He was forced to leave town.‘
‘Things were different back then,’ Mr. Gibbs said. ‘I know y’all have seen the TV specials and read all the books, but there’s a big difference between reading about life in the fifties and sixties and living it. We were supposed to mind our place, with our heads bowed and mouths closed. When we didn’t, bad things happened.”
The clock ticks down toward the day that Candice must move back home to Atlanta, where her father is overseeing renovation of their home...or what has been their home. Candice’s parents have recently divorced, and the house is being prepped for sale as Candice and Brandon spend their days together, seeking to solve the mystery and find the treasure.
In their quest to seek clues necessary to solve the mystery, they use online resources; investigate artifacts from the former Black high school that are now housed in a memorial collection in the current integrated high school’s library; and obtain a first-hand account from an old woman who, in 1957, was the best friend of Siobhan, the daughter of the Black high school’s tennis coach.
Will they find the $40 million? What did happen that night in 1957, and what is the deal with James Parker, the mysterious benefactor who has set up the mystery? There is so much to tell here, but I don’t want to ruin it for you.
I both marveled and wept as I read this book aloud, over the phone to my grandson. Readers will see that the 1954 Brown decision wasn’t the end of the fight. It was only the beginning of a bitter and sometimes deadly struggle that continues today in America.
THE PARKER INHERITANCE is a both a haunting mystery and a powerful, socially-conscious book for young readers. It’s a one-of-a-kind gem. Don’t miss it.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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