Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spirit's Key is Magically Haunting

Premise: Twelve year old Spirit is starting to wonder if something is wrong with her. First, she can't seeing the future like her father can. And secondly, she has started seeing the ghost of her dead dog. When her neighbors start getting sick, everyone blames the wild dogs on the island. But Spirit is convinced that they are not to blame. Together with her ghost dog, she seeks to find the truth.

Title: Spirit's Key
Author: Edith Cohn
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Series or Stand Alone: Stand alone
Content Appropriate for: Grades 4-7
Format: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Three adjectives that describe this book: mysterious, captivating, memorable 

Hooray for a well-crafted, haunting, dog book that doesn't make you cry! This book is for every dreamer and wonder-er. For kids who love dogs or a good mystery or interesting magic - or all three!

It's full of magical moments set firmly in the fascinating world of Bald Island - populated by wild dogs and superstitious islanders. The relationship between Spirit and her dog, Sky, is spot-on. Clearly influenced by Ingrid Law's terrific book, Savvy, Spirit's Key is part magic, part mystery, part homage to dogs.

I loved the haunting setting. Edith Cohn's world-building is outstanding. This tight-knit community reminds me of the wonderful Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." Both stories ring of McCarthyism and group-think. It's amazing to me how carefully Cohn built the community's paranoia so that it seems somehow superstitious and outrageous, but also totally plausible. And she keeps all of this completely accessible to young readers.

My only beef is that the Big Reveal is a bit too ta-da for me. Everything wraps up quickly in a neat little package. More tension in the ending would have fit better with the tone of the rest of the book.

Be sure to check out Edith Cohn's fascinating discussion of her inspirations for Spirit's Key.

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