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The Secret of The Lonely Grave
By Albert Bell, Jr.
Paperback: 160 pages
Ingalls Publishing Group
Although middle schoolers are the primary target audience, The Secret of The Lonely Grave is a strong, thought provoking read, that easily grabs the attention of book lovers of all ages. Set in Western Kentucky this is an entertaining story that tackles controversial, difficult and painful topics in meaningful, age appropriate ways. While the characters are dealing with contemporary issues such as child abuse, single parent homes and school bullies, there’s a valuable history lesson at the heart of the book, that shines the light of truth on racism, slavery, bigotry and the indelible human spirit.
Walking to and from the bus stop, best friends, Steve Patterson and Kendra Jordan pass the old cemetery where Kendra’s sister Moniqa is buried. They have visited the cemetery many times and have always been curious about one particular grave, that of six year old, Amanda, buried in the mid 1800’s. The grave was set off by itself, some distance from all the others, for that reason they nicknamed it “the lonely grave.” When they notice flowers on the forgotten grave, they decide to stake out the cemetery. Thinking if they identify who is visiting the grave they can solve the mystery.
The friends soon discover the identity of the mysterious visitor– a recently widowed college professor, named Doc. Intelligent and kind, he too had been intrigued by the “lonely grave.” Doc guides the two friends as they spend the summer researching church and historical society records and talking with local residents. When they find evidence that suggests the infamous Underground Railroad may have passed through their small town, they realize this mystery goes far beyond the little girl’s grave.
Steve’s grandparents are anything but enthusiastic about his detective exploits and demonstrate a hush-hush attitude. It now seemed entirely possible that his family had taken part in the betrayal of a local family that had assisted many escaped slaves well over a hundred years ago.
Confronting difficult topics with a stylistic flair that educates and entertains, Bell utilizes modern themes and incorporates present day challenges into the lives of the characters. The story provides a forum for open discussions about the impact of slavery, equality and the power of the human spirit.
An informative, entertaining and thought provoking read, I recommend this book to all young readers. It would be beneficial for middle school history classes to add this book to their reading lists.