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Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Seer of Shadows

The Seer of Shadows by Avi, HarperCollins, 2008, $16.99 (Young Adult Fiction - Ages 8 to 12)

I like to work in Oz (our children's book room) and check out all the books I didn't read growing up and all the new books now available. I picked up this book because the picture on the dust jacket caught my eye. I know, I know, don't judge a book by it's cover. But hey, don't shoot me, if a cover is good looking and appealing, I am more likely to pick it up and read the inside of the jacket, especially if I am not familiar with the author. And I was not familiar with Avi, but now I know I should be. He won the Newberry Medal for his book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Avi mainly writes novels for the young adult genre.

In The Seer of Shadows, the main character is a fourteen year old boy named Horace, and the time frame of the story is 1872 in New York City. Horace is old enough to leave his home and family to become an apprentice to a local society photographer, Enoch Middleditch. Horace is bright and fascinated with the new art and science of photography.

One day a new, wealthy customer comes calling on Mr. Middleditch. Mrs. Von Macht explains she and her husband recently buried their only teenaged daughter, Eleanora, and while she realizes the request may seem odd to Mr. Middleditch, she wants him to photograph her and put the image on Eleanora's grave stone. Mr. Middleditch, who Horace learns is less than honest, has no problem with this strange request because he sees how rich Mrs. Von Macht is, and believes he can take advantage of her during this vulnerable time. He also boasts to Horace he thinks Mrs. Von Macht will be pleased , and he will make a name for himself among her wealthy, high society friends. Horace is not so convinced this remarkable request and Mrs. Von Macht are what they seem. He soon learns from Mrs. Von Macht's servant girl, Pegg, the truth of Eleanora's life and untimely death.

After the photographs of Mrs. Von Macht have been taken, strange things happen...Horace begins to see Eleanora. He and Pegg figure out that the light for the camera is bringing Eleanora back from the dead! And she is on a vicious path of revenge against her adoptive parents, the Von Machts. The two youth come up with a plan to help ease Eleanora's soul and save the Von Machts with the magic of photography.

I really was surprised how much I liked this book, and truly wish I had stories like this to read when I was young and becoming an avid reader. The author's development of the characters were right on because I totally bonded with Pegg and Horace...and of course, Eleanora! This is not a scary ghost story, but I feel like 8 and 9 year olds may not be able to handle the circumstances around Eleanora's true death. I will recommend this book and author in the future...even to readers my age (which is a tiny bit older than 8 to 12 years old - HA!)