In a debut novel that's perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Erin Entrada Kelly, award-winning author/illustrator and educator Pat Cummings tells a poignant story about grief, love, and the untold stories that echo across time.
Trace Carter doesn’t know how to feel at ease in his new life in New York. Even though his artsy Auntie Lea is cool, her brownstone still isn’t his home. Haunted by flashbacks of the accident that killed his parents, the best he can do is try to distract himself from memories of the past.
But the past isn’t done with him. When Trace takes a wrong turn in the New York Public Library, he finds someone else lost in the stacks with him: a crying little boy, wearing old, tattered clothes.
And though at first he can’t quite believe he’s seen a ghost, Trace soon discovers that the boy he saw has ties to Trace’s own history—and that he himself may be the key to setting the dead to rest. ---from the publisher
320 pages 978-0062698841 Ages 10-13 (Underage drinking)
Keywords: ghost, accident, school project, suspense, African American, diverse books, diversity, heritage, history, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, alcohol, grief, guilt, loss, paranormal, Colored Orphanage Asylum, Draft Riots
Trace lives with his Auntie Lea in New York after the car accident that took his parents' lives and left him with PTSD and a lot of guilt. His aunt isn't a textbook parent, but she surrounds Trace with a support community and also makes sure that he sees Dr. Proctor, a therapist who is helping him with his grief. He has friends at school, and when his class is doing projects on the 1800s, he has a good group that includes his best friend Ty. When he goes to meet the group at the New York Public Library, he ends up in a restricted level, following a ragged four year old who is crying. Eventually, he meets a man named Dallas Houston who tells him that he, too, has seen the ghost of the child. When Ms. Levy, Trace's school librarian, mentions a fire at the Colored Orphanage Asylum that occurred during the time period his group is studying, Trace looks into it and realizes that Cholly might have perished in that event. Family papers from a great aunt's estate shed more light on Trace's family ties to it, and add a lot of interesting information to his project!
Strengths: I had never heard of the Draft Riots, but now I want to find a nonfiction book on the topic! The history was woven into the narrative very nicely. I was very glad to see that for once, a grieving child is receiving therapy to help deal with problems. That is very, very rare. The friend group is nicely portrayed, and there is even a light romantic angle. Presley and her big words are quite fun, and I love that the teacher uses the word absquatulate, which was a favorite of my students from our word-a-day calendar this year!
Weaknesses: This had a lot of coincidences that seem unlikely, and Trace at one point supposes that his aunt's friends might be lesbians in an odd, out-of-nowhere way. What I really think: Debating. This has a decent mystery, but an Avi Something Upstairs sort, rather than the murder mystery type that my students always request.
Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Library Media Specialist, Ohio USA
See more of her recommendations: msyinglingreads.blogspot.com