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Picture the Dead Hardcover – May 1, 2010
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
Scrapbooks: Not only was this book beautifully illustrated, the illustrations were done as a scrapbook. They included letters and drawings as well as photos. Each scrapbook page pulled you farther into the story and helped to move it along at an exciting pace. The only problem with this is that I did catch myself cheating and jumping ahead to see what pictures were next. Bad!
Twists and turns: I thought at one point that I new exactly what the "twist" was going to be and I was feeling pretty smug about the whole then. Then the story did a one-eighty and I was completely at a loss. I just didn't see the end coming and It hit me hard. I love it when a story surprised me.
Jennie: Jennie was a genuinely likeable character with a lot of spunk, especially for a nineteenth century girl. I really felt for her and cared about her plight. She pulled me into the story and made it very real.
Kissing cousins, no seriously: First off let me say that I understand that it was common practice until fairly recently (in the grand scheme of things) for people to marry cousins. That being said, it still creeps me right out. For whatever reason I just can't put it in the context of "that was then, this is now". This is probably because I grew up being very close to my cousins. They were like my siblings so the idea of being romantically involved with one of them makes me want to heave. Jennie isn't just involved with one, but two cousins, with whom she has lived for the past several years after the deaths of her parents. This is probably the thing that bothered me most about the book.
It could have been scarier: I was looking forward to a scary read and, while spooky, I wouldn't call this book scary. It really read more like an historical fiction with some ghostly elements. I would have like to have seen a bit more creepiness.
Jennie's Uncle: This character really didn't add much to the story except to underline Jennie's desperate situation. I wish he would have been developed a bit more.
When all is said and done, Picture the Dead is exactly what it claims to be: a spooky, romantic story with some really great twists and turns. The illustrations and the scrapbook idea only adds to the story and the overall ambiance of the tale. This is a quick, fun read that is sure to keep the reader guessing.
Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown have written a unique illustrated young adult novel that is difficult to categorize. It's carefully researched historical fiction but also a ghost story and a mystery with graphic novel elements as well. With illustrations that mimic the look of a Civil War scrapbook kept by our heroine, our story is told in the first person by orphan Jennie Lovell, who together with her twin brother has been raised for the last four years by her aunt and uncle alongside their two sons, Will and Quinn. Before the novel opens, Jennie and Will have fallen in love and become engaged.
Jennie's girlish dreams of happiness vanish as all three young men in the household go off to fight for the Union cause. First her brother dies of disease (which killed many more soldiers than did the battles themselves), then her cousin Quinn staggers home with a terrible wound to his face and the news that her fiance, Will, has died in combat. Or has he?
Jennie soon realizes that Quinn has a secret he's not telling--"and the dead cannot defend themselves." With the death of her fiance, Jennie has no status in the household. She tries to make herself useful as a nurse to Quinn, and helps with various household tasks, becoming more like a servant than a member of the family.
But when her uncle asks Jennie to contact a photographer who also has a reputation as a medium, strange things begin to happen. Is Will trying to communicate with her from the grave, or is the spirit photographer playing tricks on her? How can she explain the mysterious events that lead her to discover a lost locket, Will's last letter, and perhaps the secret as to how Will really died--not on the battlefield at all, but as a prisoner at the infamous Andersonville prison camp?
There is certainly no shortage of novels for young people about this period, but Picture the Dead, with its genre-bending story, makes an important contribution to Civil War novels and would be an excellent purchase for school or public libraries, as well as for any reader who enjoys a good mystery and ghost story.
The author and illustrator did a beautiful job of capturing the feeling of the Civil War period. I enjoyed the book greatly.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm neutral about this cover. It's not terrible but it's not awesome either. I think it could have been more ghostly and creepy considering this is supposed to be...Read more