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Louise Simone
Charlotte's Ghosts
L. P. Simone, author
Charlotte Cross didn't believe in ghosts, until she met one whose heart was as broken as her own... The spring before 7th Grade, tragedy strikes C. C. Cross. Dad won't be coming home from Afghanistan. When her mother packs her up and moves her across the country to Manassas, Virginia, C.C. finds herself in a new neighborhood, a new school and a new life, one without her mighty, fearless, and beloved father. As C.C. struggles to build a new life, she meets a boy on the Civil War Battlefield near her home. Then he disappears right before her eyes. C.C. knows that somehow, she must uncover the truth about the disappearing boy, and why he haunts the Battlefield. …In the spring of 1861 Jeremy Turner wants nothing more than to join Lincoln's army and shoot himself some Rebels, if only Ma would sign the enlistment papers. Not until he abandons his family farm and leaves behind everything he loves, will Jeremy find his way into the bloodiest war in American history. Can these two broken hearts help one another find their way home?
A cozy contemporary paranormal mystery offers an opportunity for a gentle historical perspective on war and loss in this time-crossed middle grade novel. As an Army kid, 7th grader Charlotte Cross is used to moving, but since her dad died in Afghanistan, she knows this new school in Manassas, Virginia, is more permanent. On a walk past a local Civil War battlefield, her black lab Beau runs toward a strange boy, who soon after disappears. From there, Charlotte’s Ghosts plunges into the past. In 1861, Jeremy is left alone on the farm after his father goes north to join the Union Army, but his pacifist Quaker mother won’t let Jeremy sign up to fight the rebels like he desperately wants to. While Charlotte navigates grieving by joining the cross-country team and making friends, she also finds some others willing to help her figure out how to help Jeremy’s ghost be at peace.

Charlotte’s side of this well-constructed story will be instantly relatable for readers, with themes of settling into a new place, and the sadness of losing her father touches without being overly visceral. Jeremy’s story will prove less immediately intuitive for young readers, as a Virginian father eager to fight for the North against slavery despite his wife’s religious objections is complicated, especially as slavery itself is not depicted in the story. Still, that setup illuminates the complexity of American identities, and the idea of a boy who wants to follow his own idea of manhood will resonate with adolescent readers.

In the past, the upsetting parts of the story, such as the killing of Jeremy’s beloved cow by soldiers, are also told with grace. Both Charlotte and Jeremy’s stories come to satisfying conclusions without loose ends, and the shift in Charlotte’s thinking about her dad at the end makes it clear she’s learned something from the experience.

Takeaway: Ghost mystery connecting present and past while gently exploring grief.

Comparable Titles: Claire LeGrand’s The Year of Shadows, Allison Mills’s The Ghost Collector.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A