Picture the Dead

Picture the Dead

2.2 5
by Adele Griffin

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"A perfectly haunting combination."
—Jon Scieszka, bestselling author and Caldecott Honor winner

"I loved Picture the Dead. Eerie, romantic, moody, and immersive. A beautifully illustrated gothic delight!"
—Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Black Cat

"A tour de force, a remarkable feat of visual and verbal


"A perfectly haunting combination."
—Jon Scieszka, bestselling author and Caldecott Honor winner

"I loved Picture the Dead. Eerie, romantic, moody, and immersive. A beautifully illustrated gothic delight!"
—Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Black Cat

"A tour de force, a remarkable feat of visual and verbal storytelling, as playful as it is serious, as haunting as it is delightful."

—Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Jennie feels the tingling presence of something unnatural in the house now that Will is dead.

Her heart aches without him, and she still doesn't know how he really died. It seems that everywhere she turns, someone is hiding yet another clue. As Jennie seeks the truth, she finds herself drawn ever deeper into a series of tricks and lies, secrets and betrayals, and begins to wonder if she had every really known Will at all.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Picture the Dead is an entertaining read, highly recommend it to those that enjoy the young adult historical fiction with a splash of paranormal!" -

"Aan absorbing Gothic mystery that immerses you in its pages." - A Tapestry of Words

"Truly masterful, original, and jaw-dropping creation - a work of art." -

"Utterly delightful in both content and appearance." - A YA Reader

"This book is really something special and I recommend it to anyone who likes history, romance, and a good ghost story. " -

"Picture the Dead is an absorbing and richly atmospheric piece of young adult historical fiction. " - Leafing Through Life

Julie Just
Brown's striking portraits, drawings displayed throughout as though in a photo album, animate this artful Civil War-era novel…The story is engrossing and the period details an added pleasure.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In this smartly restrained ghost story, orphan Jennie has already lost her twin brother to the Civil War, but when her brooding cousin, Quinn, returns wounded to their Massachusetts home, she learns that Will--Quinn's brother and Jennie's fiancé--is also dead. Displaced and treated like a servant by her miserly aunt, Jennie succumbs to Quinn's romantic advances, in spite of a ghostly recurring sensation that she is being choked, and her sense that something's amiss with Will's death. Integrated letters, scrawled notes, and Brown's (How to Be) digital portraits (based on daguerreotypes) provide foreshadowing, while contributing to the unease that gnaws at Jennie's stark yet beautiful narration. Through her association with a spirit photographer, Mr. Geist, Jennie presumes that Will is jealous over her engagement to Quinn, but Griffin's (the Vampire Island series) house of mirrors unveils secrets more sinister. Despite the powerful conclusion, it's moments of quiet perception that should most resonate, as when Mr. Geist distinguishes between memory and haunting: "For if memory is the wave that buoys our grief, haunting is the undertow that drags us to its troubled source." Ages 12–up. (May)
"A tale of lost love, family betrayal and visits from the spirit world, also included is an engaging thread involving a spirit medium who employs photography in his fraudulent craft. Each of the short chapters is paired with Brown's darkly inked, realistic drawings that mimic the look of photographs, newspaper articles and letters written in the elaborate cursive style of the era."
The New York Times
Brown's striking portraits, drawings displayed throughout as though in a photo album, animate this artful Civil War-era novel. Jennie, 16 years old and an orphan, is left without prospects when Will, her fiancé, dies on the battlefield: his mother is her reluctant guardian, and makes it clear she is no longer welcome in the house. With the aid of a spirit photographer, Jennie attempts to get to the bottom of a mystery: How exactly did Will die, and why does she keep having such horrible dreams? The story is engrossing and the period details an added pleasure.
— Julie Just
"Evocative black-and-white drawings... Griffin's vivid writing will draw readers into Jennie's first-person narrative of love, doubt, and mystery... The tale goes beyond [Jennie's] particular ghosts and shows how broadly the country was haunted: survivors by the loss of loved ones and soldiers by wretched memories. A Civil War ghost story with gothic overtones."
- Booklist

— Carolyn Phelan

Shelf Awareness
"Adele Griffin here combines the supernatural elements she explored in The Other Shepherds and the war themes of Sons of Liberty to chilling and riveting effect... Griffin smoothly weaves together the growing popularity of the Spiritualist movement... with breakthroughs in photography... Lisa Brown's drawings, which evoke the period and also act as faux facsimiles of Jennie's scrapbook, elevate the suspense and contribute to this gripping novel's Daphne Du Maurier-like aura."
- ShelfAwareness

— Jennifer Brown

VOYA - Rachel Wadham
When her twin, Toby, is killed in battle, Jennie Lovell finds comfort in the whisperings that come from his spirit and in the fact that her fiance, Will, may still return from the ravages of the Civil War. Then Will's younger brother, Quinn, returns seriously wounded, with news of Will's death, and Jennie's hope for a future with Will is lost. Haunted by her grief, Jennie begins to get spectral messages from Will that reveal there is more to the story of his death than Quinn is divulging. Lead by Will and supported by a spiritualist photographer, Jennie uncovers the truth behind Quinn's dangerous web of lies. With unremarkable characters and a simple plot, this book would have little to recommend except for the extraordinary way it combines social and physical history to make the perfect setting. Drawing on the popular Victorian pastime of keeping scrapbooks, each chapter is preceded by reproductions from Jennie's personal book that not only support the text but also reveal intriguing clues to the mystery. Drawing on the spiritualist movement that grew in popularity at this time adds the ambiance of the period and makes this a less overt ghost story. With social history woven into the physical realities of the Civil War, including its effect on the soldiers and the families they left behind, this novel creates a uniquely holistic view of the time period that is often lacking in other works of historical fiction. Reviewer: Rachel Wadham
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—This highly unusual book is a combination of historical fiction, a ghost story, and a scrapbook. Jennie Lovell's twin brother, Toby, and her fiancé, Will, have been killed in the Civil War, the latter under mysterious circumstances. Will's brother returns home a battered, bitter young man with secrets that Jennie is determined to uncover. She is under the guardianship of her aunt and uncle, Will and Quinn's parents, and they threaten to turn her out. She is mesmerized by a photographer who claims to be able to capture images from the spirit world, and she uses this relationship to explore the signs she believes Will is sending her, warnings that she must decipher carefully. In the end, it isn't clear if the ghost of Jennie's fiancé is real or a figment of her imagination, which makes the story all the more eerie. What is suspect, and frightening, is Quinn's sudden interest in Jennie. The inclusion of family portraits, invitations, newspaper clippings, and letters from her scrapbook make the reading experience rich with texture. Serious readers of historical fiction will be pleased to discover a book with a unique perspective on such a well-represented period of American history as well as a good story with suspense and a determined heroine.—Nora G. Murphy, Los Angeles Academy Middle School
Kirkus Reviews
A brooding mystery set during the Civil War, this gripping ghost story of a young woman trapped by the confines of her gender and social standing is not altogether successful in its format. Blending straightforward first-person narration and illustrations fashioned to look like a scrapbook, much of the novel's impact is drawn from its protagonist Jennie's beautifully crafted plaintive voice. A tale of lost love, family betrayal and visits from the spirit world, also included is an engaging thread involving a spirit medium who employs photography in his fraudulent craft. Each of the short chapters is paired with Brown's darkly inked, realistic drawings that mimic the look of photographs, newspaper articles and letters written in the elaborate cursive style of the era. Alas, the repetition of some of the images is too unsubtle in foreshadowing the story's conclusion. Also, though carefully rendered, the illustrations often interrupt rather than enhance the flow of the work and may seem out of place for older teen readers, who would otherwise be a natural audience for this appealingly gothic work. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

A ghost will find his way home.

It’s dark outside, an elsewhere hour between midnight and dawn. I lie awake, frozen, waiting for a sound not yet audible. My eyes are open before I hear the wheels of the carriage at the bottom of the drive.

And now the dog is barking, and there’s faint light through my window. The hired man has emerged from his room above the stable, lantern swinging from his hand. I hear Uncle Henry’s lumbering tread, Aunt Clara’s petulant “Henry? Who is it, Henry, at this hour?”

I know that the servants are awake, too, though I can’t hear them. They have been trained to move in silence.

What if the carriage brings news of Quinn and William? Or even my cousins themselves? That would be too much luck, perhaps, but I’m not sure that I’m strong enough for less. Another loss would be unendurable. And we are never given more than we can bear, are we?

When I sit up, I am pinpricked in fear.

The corridor is freezing cold, and the banister is spiky, garlanded in fresh pine. With both sons at war and her only nephew buried this year, Aunt Clara nonetheless insisted on bedecking Pritchett House for the Christmas holiday. Uncle Henry always defers to his wife’s fancies. She’s a spoiled child, blown up into a monster.

Downstairs the front doors are flung open. I join the household gathered on the porch—all of us but the hired man, who stands below in the drive as the trap pulls up. The moment feels eternal. I twist at my ring, a diamond set between two red garnets, more costly than the sum of everything I own. When Will slid it onto my finger, he’d promised that I’d get accustomed to it. Not true, not yet.

“Doctor Perkins,” says Mavis, raising the lantern as the doctor jumps down from the buckboard. The housemaid’s chattering lips are as blue as her bare feet, and her braid swings so close I could reach out and yank it like a bell cord if she didn’t scare so easy.

The doctor signals for Uncle Henry to help him with another passenger.

Quinn. The name shatters through me.

Aunt Clara looks sharp in my direction. Had I spoken out loud? I must have. But I’m sure it’s Quinn. And as the figure emerges, I see that I’m right.

Quinn. Not Will.

He is grotesquely thin and hollowed out, his left eye wrapped in a belt of cloth that winds around his head. He is barely human.

“I’ll need hot water and clean bandaging.” Doctor Perkins is speaking as Mavis’s lantern pitches, throwing wild shadows. “A step at a time, Henry.”

On the sight of her favorite son, Aunt Clara whimpers. Her hands clasp together under a chin that wobbles like aspic. “Oh, my darling boy, safe at home at last.”

Quinn ignores her, an old and useful habit. He brushes past Aunt, the plank of one long arm hooked over Uncle Henry’s neck. But then he squares me in his eye, and in one look I know the worst.

Will is not coming back.

Blood rushes to my head; I might faint. I lean back against a pillar and take slow sips of air.

“A few more steps,” pants the doctor. “Where is the closest bed?”

Quinn’s bedroom is all the way up on the third floor, an inconvenient sickroom. He’d moved there last year, before he’d found a richer rebellion in joining the army and leaving home altogether.

“Give him Jennie’s room,” says Aunt Clara. “Go on. It’s only one flight, off the landing. And Jennie can sleep up in Quinn’s room. It will work perfectly.”

These suggestions part so quick from her lips that I know they’ve been squirreled in her head for a while. Even through her dread and worry, my aunt has been plotting against me.

A very bad sign.

Meet the Author

ADELE GRIFFIN is the critically acclaimed author of numerous young adult novels, including My Almost Epic Summer, The Other Shepards, and National Book Award Finalists Where I Want to Be and Sons of Liberty. She lives in New York City.

LISA BROWN is the bestselling author and illustrator of How to Be and Sometimes and the very popular Baby Be of Use board book series from McSweeney's. She also publishes a bimonthly illustrated book review in the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in California with her husband, author Lemony Snicket, and their son.

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Picture the Dead 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Marcie77 More than 1 year ago
Picture the Dead is an unearthly romantic tale set in the civil war era. Jennie lives with her aunt and uncle and is engaged to their son, Will. After Will's death, his brother, Quinn, returns home injured. Quinn is moody and quiet and very reluctant to talk about the trials of war. However what he does tell Jennie disturbs her greatly. The Will that Quinn tells her about is not the Will she knows. Desperate to find the truth Jennie seeks the help of the supernatural. What she uncovers is far worse than she ever imagined. The story is told from Jennie's point of view. It also contains sections in the book that look like a scrapbook. The pictures in this book have scribbling underneath them expressing Jennie's feelings about that particular picture. This is an unique way to help convey the main character's feeling. Lisa Brown did a fantastic job. This really added to the book. I like that this book takes part during the civil war. The authors combine history with superstition and spins it into this mysterious tale of romance and intrigue. This was an enjoyable read from start to finish. I found myself caught up in the story line eager to uncover the truth with the heroine. Overall this was a really good read. It is haunting, creepy and eerie. Although there is quite a bit of drama, I think this book would be appropriate for kids twelve and up. It's fairly clean with only a little war time violence. However you might get chills while reading this book.
beckymmoe More than 1 year ago
Picture the Dead was an interesting book. It was a quick read, because it actually had pictures--the second author credited on the cover is actually the illustrator--pictures which gave clues to things that were about to happen or clarified things that already had. I enjoyed the story, but the pacing seemed a bit off--for a lot of it, it felt like not much was happening and then once it did, bam! it all happened at once. Still, though, it was a fun way to spend a few hours.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I totally reacmmed this book to others ota a great book!!! And a little scary hope you enjoy it as much as I did
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not great, not awful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a good book but kind of confusing with the supernatual and angel thing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
pagese More than 1 year ago
This book surprised me! I think I was expecting a little bit more of a ghost story, which this story really isn't. You do get a little bit of that creepy feeling every once in awhile. But, it's more of a story about a young women coming to terms with the chaos and loss that surrounds her. I had a hard time getting into the story at first, and wasn't sure how I felt about the illustrations that came at the beginning of each chapter. But, the story builds into a wonderful mystery as you follow Jennie while she's trying to piece together what happened. What she discovers was not what I was expecting and the dramatic ending fit perfectly with the events that unfolded in the book. I enjoyed the spiritualistic aspect of the story. I could take or leave the illustrations though. They were an interesting addition to the story, but I found myself skipping them more than anything.
ImaginaryReads More than 1 year ago
Jennie is told that Will died in battle, but certain clues lead her to believe that something else happened. Something that Quinn and everyone else involved wants to cover up. With the belief that Will is haunting her, Jennie makes full use of her brother's spy tactics to figure out just what happened and if the true Will is the same Will that she knew and loved. In the spiritual photographer Geist, she finds a friend and fellow believer in ghosts. In Quinn, she finds comfort and a potential love she had never before considered. However, there is more to the true story and circumstances to Will's death than she could have imagined, and learning the truth could undermine the security that she's scrambling to establish in a hostile home. I love the subtle taste with which the supernatural elements are inserted into the story. There are signs and suggestions that a restless spirit haunts Jennie and the Prichett family; at the same time, it is easy to believe that Jennie might be being played and the true identity of the spirit is human. Whatever we choose to believe is up to us, the reader, but Jennie strongly believes that Will has come back to help her uncover the truth behind his death. Best of all, the story will keep you guessing and second guessing yourself on what really happened. Even after thinking through all the possibilities, I was beginning to fall for the lies when the truth came out, which was not at all what I was expecting after all that happens. It seems that I am not cut out for spy work at all! Picture the Dead isn't a long book, and the pages are filled with pictures from Jennie's scrapbook, always foreshadowing what is to come. The simplicity of the language lends power to the words wrought with emotion and is at a level where younger readers may also enjoy this beautiful, poignant story. The ease with which this story can be read and the gorgeous illustrations make this book a good read for readers of all ages.
Catie22 More than 1 year ago
I'll be very honest and say that I had some preconceived notions about how awesome this book was going to be because it had three of my favorite things: ghosts, the civil war and PICTURES! Yes, I'll admit that I'm basically 12 at heart and love illustrations to go along with a story. I'm a very visual person so the right illustrations can really enhance my reading enjoyment. Many people scoff at such things but I welcome pictures in novels! Ghosts and the Civil War kind of go hand in hand for me so if a book has both, it is a must read. Throw in an author like Adele Griffin and a super spooky plot and I expect nothing less than awesome. Picture the Dead mostly lived up to this expectation. Mostly. LIKES: Scrapbooks: Not only was this book beautifully illustrated, the illustrations were done as a scrapbook. They included letters and drawings as well as photos. Each scrapbook page pulled you farther into the story and helped to move it along at an exciting pace. The only problem with this is that I did catch myself cheating and jumping ahead to see what pictures were next. Bad! Twists and turns: I thought at one point that I new exactly what the "twist" was going to be and I was feeling pretty smug about the whole then. Then the story did a one-eighty and I was completely at a loss. I just didn't see the end coming and It hit me hard. I love it when a story surprised me. Jennie: Jennie was a genuinely likeable character with a lot of spunk, especially for a nineteenth century girl. I really felt for her and cared about her plight. She pulled me into the story and made it very real. DISLIKES: Kissing cousins, no seriously: First off let me say that I understand that it was common practice until fairly recently (in the grand scheme of things) for people to marry cousins. That being said, it still creeps me right out. For whatever reason I just can't put it in the context of "that was then, this is now". This is probably because I grew up being very close to my cousins. They were like my siblings so the idea of being romantically involved with one of them makes me want to heave. Jennie isn't just involved with one, but two cousins, with whom she has lived for the past several years after the deaths of her parents. This is probably the thing that bothered me most about the book. It could have been scarier: I was looking forward to a scary read and, while spooky, I wouldn't call this book scary. It really read more like an historical fiction with some ghostly elements. I would have like to have seen a bit more creepiness. Jennie's Uncle: This character really didn't add much to the story except to underline Jennie's desperate situation. I wish he would have been developed a bit more. When all is said and done, Picture the Dead is exactly what it claims to be: a spooky, romantic story with some really great twists and turns. The illustrations and the scrapbook idea only adds to the story and the overall ambiance of the tale. This is a quick, fun read that is sure to keep the reader guessing.
Mother-Daughter-Book-Club More than 1 year ago
Jennie Lovell has suffered much tragedy in her 16 years. Her parents died, her twin brother was killed fighting in the Civil War, and now her fiancé/cousin has also fallen on the battlefield. The aunt and uncle who have taken her in-never overly warm towards her- have fallen on hard times. She doesn't know what she'll do if they put her out. Jennie's cousin Quinn seems to be harboring a secret about his brother's death, and his own wounding in combat. When the family turns to a spiritualist photographer to help calm their grief, Jennie begins to feel her fiancé is trying to send a message through the prints made. Deciphering the meaning of what she sees may just save her life. Picture the Dead, written by Adele Griffin and illustrated by Lisa Brown, intertwines the interest in spiritualism that was rampant during the American Civil War with the story of soldiers who fought in the war and the families they left behind. So many young men died in bloody conflict it's not surprising that their mothers, fathers and siblings sought to know if their loved ones found comfort on the other side. Photography had only recently been created, so it's maybe not surprising that people tied the mysteries that went on in a photographer's dark room with the mysteries of death. Readers also see the precarious position that women of the times were often in. Dependent on the men in their lives for support, their entire futures could easily be turned upside down if a husband, father or brother died. During the Civil War, many of them did. Part historical fiction, part mystery, Picture the Dead is deliciously creepy and fun to read. Jennie keeps a scrapbook, and black-and white illustrations portray the things she secretes away: newspaper clippings, photographs, lists, letters, and notes from her twin. I highly recommend this book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do someone now how to get a book gone?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It looks so strange...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Givin it 1 star cuz i never read it but it looks very interesting