- Age Range: 12 - 17 years
- Grade Level: 7 - 12
- Lexile Measure: 1070L (What's this?)
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (May 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1402230923
- ISBN-13: 978-1402230929
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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We Hear the Dead Paperback – May 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Maggie and Kate Fox were real celebrities in the mid-1800s, sisters said to have an ability to communicate with the dead. Salerni brings the séance culture vividly to life without ever pretending that the mediums believed in their own "ghost rapping." Maggie, the older sister, reveals in the opening pages that her spiritualism is deception and humbug and prank. An occasional chapter is written by Kate, who believes that she can truly communicate with the dead, even if the actual rapping comes from trickery. Egged on by an older sister, the girls find they enjoy the perks of their fame, and Maggie in particular is pleased to reassure grieving patrons that their loved ones are at peace. Despite the seeming focus on the supernatural, the novel offers much historical context and several richly developed subplots, most notably the romance between Maggie Fox and Elisha Kane. Kane was a renowned explorer, and his funeral was second in size only to that of Abraham Lincoln's. The author's word choices ("spectacles," "peevishly," "devilment," "bedchamber") draw readers into the past. She paints vivid scenes of life in upstate New York during a time when exposed ankles were shocking and the Underground Railroad offered a dangerous route to freedom for both conductors and slaves. Historical fiction at its best.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
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In upstate New York in 1848, two young sisters, Maggie and Kate Fox, created a spiritual hoax to frighten a detested cousin. Through eerie rapping sounds produced by cracking joints, they convinced their family and then the whole town that they could communicate with ghosts. What began as a childhood prank turned into their adult livelihood, and the sisters became famous, even “rapping” for First Lady Jane Pierce. Alternating narration between Maggie and Kate, Salerni imagines the young adult years of these closely bonded, very different siblings: Maggie feels guilty for their trickery, while Kate believes that she has a sixth sense and has never “intentionally deceived anyone.” Salerni details the sisters' performances and their troubled family dynamics, but much of the book's later half focuses on a passionate, fraught romance between Maggie and a wealthy explorer, leaving Kate's story underdeveloped. Still, the events, based in fact, are inherently fascinating, and older readers may want to move on to the several adult books, listed in an appended bibliography, about the wily and tragic Foxes. Grades 8-11. --Gillian Engberg
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Top customer reviews
The story focuses on the middle sister, Maggie, who falls in love with the explorer, Elisha Kent Kane, and who is aware that the Fox sisters' claim to communicate with the dead is a hoax. Before leaving on a rescue mission to the Arctic, Kane extracts a pledge from Maggie that she must give up her rapping, dangling the promise of a wedding before her. She agrees and keeps her eyes on the horizon waiting for her explorer to return.
Dianne Salerni is masterful in recreating the environment that allowed Spiritualism to flourish. Her detailed portraits of the Fox sisters allow modern readers to understand how these young women were able to pull the wool over the eyes of so many, including author James Fenimore Cooper, editor Horace Greeley, and the tragic wife of President Franklin Pierce. Her in-depth knowledge of this slice of American history enables her to write an engrossing and compelling story. This book has been designated as Young Adult, but this is a story that any member of the family with an interest in American history can enjoy.
I really liked the main character, Maggie Fox. The description I read made it seem like Kate Fox would narrate more than she did. She only had a few chapters here and there. Can I hope for a companion that focuses more on her? The oldest Fox sister, Leah, didn't narrate at all. The beginning of the book really sucked me in. Spiritualism, mediumship, communicating with the dead... it's something that has fascinated me for a long time. Whether these girls were really communicating with the dead remains to be seen. But seeing as how they've been dead themselves for more than a century, it's not likely we'll ever know the truth. However, if it was a hoax, it was never proven.
Ghosts, or spirits, began rapping on the walls of the home they lived in. They asked the ghosts questions while the ghosts rapped twice for yes and once for no. By creating the rapping, they passed along messages of the dead. It became a phenomenon and drew in interested people from all over. They accepted money to pass along love one's messages and created the religion known as spiritualism.
The novel traveled from the spiritualism movement into Maggie's romance with Elisha Kent Kane, a famous explorer. While this didn't interest me as much as the spirit rapping, it was well written, nicely told, and still very engaging. Maggie's teenage life definitely had its ups and downs. Living in high society while holding spirit circles and pulling away from it to gain approval of potential in-laws. I'm definitely very interested in learning more about these amazing ladies.
Whether you like historical fiction or not, this is definitely a wonderful read. I just finished it and kind of want to read it again.
If spirits weren't talking through raps, taps and other assorted sounds in the darkened rooms, how were the girls doing it? Some said Maggie and Kate Fox were frauds when they first claimed to hear the dead in Hydesville, New York in 1848.
Perhaps Maggie, the protagonist, had a gift for counseling and perhaps her more adventurous sister Kate truly had the evolving abilities of a medium, even though the whole thing began as a prank. Their mother believed more than they believed. Their older sister Leah saw that if "spirit circles" were properly presented, there was money to be made.
Welcome to the world presented in living color through the well-focused lens of Dianne K. Salerni's very readable novel "We Hear the Dead."
While the dashing military hero and Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane, who had his eyes on Maggie, did not believe the rapping came from the spirit world, many of the rich and famous did. The Fox sisters, who were born on the wrong side of the tracks, became sought after by high society. One of the strong points of this novel is the dynamic interplay between historical and fictional characters in believable settings as the sisters travel and attract press attention and large audiences.
Before you begin reading "We Hear the Dead," you will know that the story is true. As you read, you'll quickly discover that the Salerni's wonderful historical novel not only brings the Fox sisters to life, but the dead with whom they spoke as well.
"We Hear the Dead" is real because Salerni knows how to weave solid research and meaningful historical details into a novel that begins with two confessions, moves on to the haunting, and remains strong and vital throughout.
Most recent customer reviews
Quick & Dirty: A combination of religion, history, and romance that is quite captivating, using a difficult time period to make the...Read more