Ghost Pictures: The Seer of Shadows

In an earlier post, I highlighted some lighter, funnier, shorter ghost stories for younger readers.  This one is not — not lighter, funnier, or shorter — but it IS a wonderfully-written, chilling tale by a master of historical fiction.

The Seer of Shadows, by Avi (lexile: 720; AR book level: 5.2; 208 pp)

What if your camera could capture the image of ghosts?  What if your camera could make them come to life?

It is 1872.  The art of photography is relatively new, and mostly for the very rich.  Fourteen-year-old Horace Carpetine sets out to make  his way in the world as the apprentice to a rather unscrupulous photographer, Enoch Middleditch.  When Middleditch is commissioned to take a portrait of a grieving (and wealthy) Mrs Von Macht to place on her daughter’s tomb, he makes Horace help him scam the woman into buying more pictures.  With the magic of photography, he will place a ghostly image of the girl, Eleanora, in the picture with her mother.  What Middleditch doesn’t realize is that Horace’s pictures are no fabrication: he really has photographed — and awakened — Eleanora’s ghost.  All is not as it seems in the Von Macht household, and Eleanora has returned to enact her terrifying revenge.

Horace himself tells the story, as he finds himself allied with the Von Macht’s servant girl, Peggy, to unravel the Von Machts’ secrets and try to stop Eleanora.   It is  suspenseful, well-told, and includes well-researched details on the history of photography and life among the wealthy  in New York City in the late 19th century.  (Just don’t read it before you get a family picture taken.)

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