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Paul Aertker, author

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

2018 SCBWI Spark Honor WINNER

"A bittersweet story of ... eternal optimism." --Publisher's Weekly (BookLife) "A deeply moving story that belongs on any juvenile bookshelf." --Foreword Reviews
Friendship, perseverance, and the power of belief shine in this novel about a girl trying to stay connected to her late mother. "A reminder that inclusiveness and kindness can always defeat fear." --Kirkus Reviews 

While living in Paris, Ellie Kerr's mom penned a series of children's stories, yet sadly died before they could be published. Once Ellie and her father return to the US, the twelve-year-old decides to finish what her mother could not. When Ellie is mysteriously blocked by a password on her mother's computer, she becomes determined to find the truth -- even though four failed attempts will destroy the computer's data, including her mom's stories! Ellie's father thinks that the code is unbreakable, but Ellie believes that her mother might have left a posthumous message in the new password. With the help of friends, Ellie tries to crack the code, publish the books, and ultimately honor her mother.

Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 6.75 out of 10


Plot: Aertker delivers a tender and moving novel about the days leading up to, and following, a loved one’s death. The story evenly transitions between events in the present day and the painful recent past, while Aertker emphasizes the power of stories that are left behind after death.

Prose: The author’s prose is warmly suited to a middle-grade audience, with relatable and vulnerable first-person narration, authentic dialogue, and apt descriptions

Originality: Stories of youth grappling with the death of a parent aren’t unique, but Aertker takes a fresh approach to exploring one girl’s search for meaning through grief.

Character Development: Aertker creates a sympathetic heroine in Ellie, while meaningfully developing adult characters—most significantly, Ellie’s mother, who comes alive through the sections devoted to her final days with Ellie.

Date Submitted: May 16, 2018

In a bittersweet story about honoring a loved one’s memory, 12-year-old Ellie has returned to the United States with her father after living in Paris. They are both adjusting to a new reality without Ellie’s mother, who died of cancer in France. Ellie knows that there is much of her brave, vivacious mother to be found in the children’s stories she left behind—and that bringing her mother’s writing into the world will provide solace. But Ellie is unable to guess the password that will allow access to her mother’s computer—a password that her mother seems to have changed shortly before her death. Aertker’s narrative transitions between the present day and the family’s time in Paris, including Ellie’s mother’s diagnosis, treatments, and death. Through the expansive, well-conveyed flashbacks, Ellie reflects on her family’s painful ordeal and her vividly portrayed mother’s eternal optimism in the face of her illness. While there are tear-jerking moments, Aertker’s novel doesn’t dwell on the family’s sense of loss, instead focusing on Ellie’s crystallized recollections and life’s steady drumbeat forward. Ages 9–12. (BookLife)


Paul Aertker 
Flying Solo Press (Jun 1, 2018)
Softcover $9.95 (200pp)

Beautiful and emotional, Posthumous is about Ellie, a twelve-year-old girl trying to deal with her mother’s death.

Life in Paris is pretty great for Ellie and her parents. Ellie’s father, Calvert, works for the man who would have been the king of France. Ellie’s mother, Etta, writes travel stories for children, though she has never been published. Then one day Etta complains of bad back pain, and life changes very quickly.

In the first half of the story Ellie describes the process of her mother dying, how Etta tried to stay positive, and of the friends and neighbors who rallied around her family. Tears are guaranteed as the story tracks the family’s enormous grief.

After Etta passes, Ellie and her father move back to the United States. Ellie wants to get her mother’s manuscripts published. She enlists the help of new friends in this endeavor, as well as in making a new home.

The novel is both sad and lovely. Ellie’s reactions to the loss of her mother are authentic, as are her expressed feelings of powerlessness. Her bravery and tenacity when it comes to Etta’s manuscripts serve as a powerful tribute to a daughter’s love. Children who have lost a parent will relate to Ellie and find comfort in sharing her story, but empathy is ensured for all.

Posthumous is about love and hope and finding joy, even through incredible loss. It is a deeply moving story that belongs on any juvenile bookshelf.

Reviewed by Catherine Thureson 
July/August 2018