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Picture the Dead Hardcover – May 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 800L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140223712X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402237126
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,280,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-10–This highly unusual book is a combination of historical fiction, a ghost story, and a scrapbook. Jennie Lovell's twin brother, Toby, and her fiancé, Will, have been killed in the Civil War, the latter under mysterious circumstances. Will's brother returns home a battered, bitter young man with secrets that Jennie is determined to uncover. She is under the guardianship of her aunt and uncle, Will and Quinn's parents, and they threaten to turn her out. She is mesmerized by a photographer who claims to be able to capture images from the spirit world, and she uses this relationship to explore the signs she believes Will is sending her, warnings that she must decipher carefully. In the end, it isn't clear if the ghost of Jennie's fiancé is real or a figment of her imagination, which makes the story all the more eerie. What is suspect, and frightening, is Quinn's sudden interest in Jennie. The inclusion of family portraits, invitations, newspaper clippings, and letters from her scrapbook make the reading experience rich with texture. Serious readers of historical fiction will be pleased to discover a book with a unique perspective on such a well-represented period of American history as well as a good story with suspense and a determined heroine.Nora G. Murphy, Los Angeles Academy Middle School
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

On the home front near Boston in 1864, Jennie feels her twin’s presence like “a wave crashing over me” moments after he dies in a Union field hospital. Over the next year, she senses his presence and, more strongly, that of her fiancé, their cousin Will, who also died in the war. Will’s brother Quinn arrives home wounded, gaunt, and haunted by his experiences. When his painful revelations change the way she thinks about Will, Jennie faces hard choices and tries to contact the dead for guidance in discovering the truth. Brown’s evocative black-and-white drawings of photographs, letters, and other documents such as newspaper clippings appear between chapters in four-page, black-paper sections representing Jennie’s scrapbooks and, equally, possible evidence in the mystery. Although Griffin’s vivid writing will draw readers into Jennie’s first-person narrative of love, doubt, and mystery, the tale goes beyond her particular ghosts and also shows how broadly the country was haunted: survivors by the loss of loved ones and soldiers by wretched memories. A Civil War ghost story with gothic overtones. Grades 6-9. --Carolyn Phelan

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Customer Reviews

Picture the Dead is more than a ghost story.
Evie Seo
She was so worried about not being tossed out (now that her fiancee was gone) she didn't want to see I think.
Amazon Customer
They just throw the story forward and keep the pages turning.
Mrs. L

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Hudson on June 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jennie Lovell has suffered much tragedy in her 16 years. Her parents died, her twin brother was killed fighting in the Civil War, and now her fiancé/cousin has also fallen on the battlefield. The aunt and uncle who have taken her in--never overly warm towards her-- have fallen on hard times. She doesn't know what she'll do if they put her out.

Jennie's cousin Quinn seems to be harboring a secret about his brother's death, and his own wounding in combat. When the family turns to a spiritualist photographer to help calm their grief, Jennie begins to feel her fiancé is trying to send a message through the prints made. Deciphering the meaning of what she sees may just save her life.

Picture the Dead, written by Adele Griffin and illustrated by Lisa Brown, intertwines the interest in spiritualism that was rampant during the American Civil War with the story of soldiers who fought in the war and the families they left behind. So many young men died in bloody conflict it's not surprising that their mothers, fathers and siblings sought to know if their loved ones found comfort on the other side. Photography had only recently been created, so it's maybe not surprising that people tied the mysteries that went on in a photographer's dark room with the mysteries of death.

Readers also see the precarious position that women of the times were often in. Dependent on the men in their lives for support, their entire futures could easily be turned upside down if a husband, father or brother died. During the Civil War, many of them did. Part historical fiction, part mystery, Picture the Dead is deliciously creepy and fun to read. Jennie keeps a scrapbook, and black-and white illustrations portray the things she secretes away: newspaper clippings, photographs, lists, letters, and notes from her twin. I highly recommend this book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up.'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
When I picked this book up at my daughter's elementary school book fair, I didn't quite know what to expect but was drawn in by the cover art. I figured it would be a middle-grade ghost story about spirit photography, perhaps with a few moody romance scenes.

But Picture the Dead really surprised me! It's actually quite a good gothic paranormal tale, set in a Civil War-era New England town where the death toll rises daily and the citizens are sometimes turning to spiritualism to contact their departed sons and lovers.

The story begins with our heroine-- sixteen-year-old Jenny Lovell-- receiving news that her fiance Will has perished in the Wilderness at the hands of enemy soldiers. Stricken with grief and shunned by the only family she has left, she begins to experience supernatural "visits" from Will. Is it real contact or simply imagination and grief? Is someone trying to drive her mad? If Will's contact is really happening, is his message one of faithful devotion or something more sinister? Jennie finds help in unlikely quarters, and along the way unravels family secrets and betrayals, and uncovers the truth about Will's contact.

While the ending comes as no surprise, it still is captivating and suspenseful. The entire novel is laden with latent horror, atmospheric... even in the scenes of sunshine and romance, the cold, misty Unknown lurks in the corners. The author shows her extensive research in the use of real names, events, and processes; and the illustrator has faithfully reproduced the Civil War ephemera.

The cover claims its aim is 6th grade and above: I'd say that's reasonable but a knowledge of the era and/or gothic sensibility certainly come in handy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Evie Seo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Picture the Dead is more than a ghost story. It's a truly masterful, original, and jaw-dropping creation - a work of art. There's a touch of romance, beautifully described historical setting, goose-bumpy atmosphere, and a thrilling mystery. Above all, there's a skillfully executed, bone-chilling plot line, emotionally engaging first-person narrative, and a totally unexpected yet entirely satisfying conclusion. Combining Adele Griffin's excellent writing style with Lisa Brown's phenomenal illustrations, Picture the Dead reaches a whole new level of storytelling, taking the reader back in time to the last months of American Civil War. The deliciously eerie scrapbook-like graphics perfectly complement the plot line, adding flavor and resulting in an unforgettable reading experience. Be prepared, this book will haunt you long after you turn the last page.

In this riveting book, set in 19th-century America (1864-65 - the last two years of American Civil War), we meet sixteen-year old Jennie Lovell, who, after both her parents died and her twin brother was killed on the battlefield, was taken in by her Aunt and Uncle - the parents of her childhood friend and soon-to-be-married fiance, William. Jennie doesn't have anyone left. She has no other family members to turn to, nor does she have any savings of her own. She's fully dependent on her fiance's family, and when the news about Will's death reach the Pritchett household, Jennie finds herself in a very difficult living situation. Aunt Clara becomes even more hostile towards her, making it clear that Jennie does not belong there. With no status and nowhere else to go, she tries desperately to prove herself useful to her Aunt and Uncle by performing various household tasks.
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