From the Publisher
“A genuinely spooky and engrossing ghost story.” Jennifer Armstrong, award-winning author of The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan
“YAs will enjoy the characters' struggle between reality and myth in this innovative ‘ghost story' overflowing with the power of love, friendship, and courage.” KLIATT
“This plot-twisting ghost story is full of history, friendship, romance, betrayal, and jealousy.” School Library Journal
“The bits of truth that Lois Ruby weaves into the story are what make it mysterious and chilling. This is a great book for learning about plantation life, but reading it at night will definitely give you the creeps.” Bookloons.com
KLIATT - Gordon College
When Lila's mother asks her to make reservations for their family's trip to Louisiana, Lila picks the Laurel Oaks Plantation because of its claim to be haunted. Her family scoffs at the idea, but after a creepy, nighttime tour of the plantation, Lila thinks the spirits might actually be trying to communicate with her. One particularly eager ghost is a slave girl named Daphne who worked at the plantation in the 1840s. Daphne had been accused of poisoning, and killing, the wife and daughters of her master. Daphne's spirit senses that Lila will believe her long-kept secret as Lila digs deep into Laurel Oaks's history to unveil the real story of what happened that fateful night many years ago. Lila's search for the truth leads her to talking trees, voodoo magic, and hidden treasure. This YA novel shifts back and forth between Lila's voice in the present and Daphne's voice in the past, showing how two lives centuries apart connect in a deeply moving way. YAs will enjoy the characters' struggle between reality and myth in this innovative "ghost" story overflowing with the power of love, friendship, and courage. Ashleigh Larsen, Teaching Asst., English, Reviewer: Gordon College
Children's Literature - Jennifer Wood
This fun blend of historical fiction and ghost story is a rich melding of the vastly different worlds of its two alternating narrators: the modern-day Lila and deceased slave Daphne. Lila has experienced some strange occurrences since the death of a family friend, so she leaps at the chance to pick the hotel when her brother and father must travel along with her mother to Louisiana. After researching the area, Lila settles on the fictional Laurel Oaks Plantation, which author Ruby bases closely on the real Myrtles Plantation, supposedly one of the most haunted places in America. Almost immediately uponon her family's arrival, Lila and her brother begin noticing bizarre events, which begin to make sense after the siblings take the ghostly hotel tour. The tour begins to weave Lila's story with that of Daphne, a slave who once lived on the plantation and who is introduced in greater detail in the prologue. The chapters alternate between Lila's present-day narrative and Daphne's historical one, a wise choice which provides valuable, valid historiographical information while decreasing the sometimes distancing or didactic effects of some other historical fiction. Some adults may object to the ghostly aspects or to the darker side of Daphne, whose sexual abuse at the hands of her master is implied and whose possible role as the murderer of his children and wife is the central mystery of the novel; however, this book is far from the typical dry nonfictional texts used in some school districts and would be a valuable asset in a late elementary or early middle school American history curriculum. Reviewer: Jennifer Wood
VOYA - Rachelle Bilz
When Professor Barry is scheduled to present a paper at a Louisiana State conference, the entire family accompanies her and stays at Laurel Oaks Plantation, rumored to be haunted. With their parents at the conference, thirteen-year-old Lila and her year-older brother Gabe are left to explore the mysterious house and grounds. On a candlelit walk for tourists, the siblings learn the history of the plantation. Legend has it that Daphne, a disgruntled teenage slave, poisoned and killed her mistress Amelia Nethercott and her two daughters, Molly and Alice. Only Lila sees Daphne's face in the hallway mirror during the tour, along with the streaks that look like blood. As time passes, Lila experiences more frequent, increasingly frightening encounters with the supernatural. She sees a gardener who is imperceptible to anyone else, she feels an invisible corpse with her foot, she hears voices, and more. Lila figures out that Daphne is trying to communicate with her and enlists Gabe's help in doing what is necessary to let Daphne's soul rest. Based on the author's experiences during her stay at Louisiana's Myrtles Plantation, one of the ten most haunted houses in America, this ghost story is perfect for readers who prefer chills down the spine over being scared to death. Told alternately in Daphne's and Lila's voices, it is a perfect blend of history, reality, and the supernatural. Suspenseful and intriguing, this novel should appeal to students looking for a good, scary read. Reviewer: Rachelle Bilz
School Library Journal
When the Barry family decides to stay at the Laurel Oaks Plantation in Louisiana, considered by the Smithsonian Institution to be one of the 10 most haunted places in the United States, a harmless bit of fun becomes a life-altering experience for Lila, 13, and her 14-year-old brother, Gabe. As they take part in the spooky evening tour of the house, Lila senses and sees what Gabe thinks are all gimmicks and Disney-style special effects. The presence of spirits is strong and one in particular is reaching out to Lila. It is the spirit of Daphne, a slave girl who was accused of poisoning her master's wife and two daughters. Is Lila the one who can put things right for Daphne after all these years and allow peace to come to Laurel Oaks? This plot-twisting ghost story is full of history, friendship, romance, betrayal, and jealousy. Lila's and Daphne's stories are revealed through alternating chapters, shifting between today and the 1840s. While this technique works well, at times it is distracting and seems to make the plot drag needlessly. Overall, this is an interesting read with considerable potential but its ending loses steam.-Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY
Set in south Louisiana and inspired by the ghost stories surrounding the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, this tale alternates between the voices of Lila, a modern teenager from Albuquerque, and Daphne, the ghost of a slave girl. Lila, with help from her brother Gabe and new friend Sal, debunks the long-held belief that Daphne poisoned and killed the mistress of the plantation and her two daughters. Daphne finally learns what exactly happened that fateful day as Lila pieces it together through both logical and supernatural means, and Daphne secures Lila's help fulfilling a promise she'd made to the mistress of the house when she was alive. The story contains some dark truths about slavery-including repeated sexual assaults on Daphne and the slicing off of her ear as punishment for eavesdropping-without describing them too graphically. The characters are, for the most part, well-rendered and likable, although the behavior and dialogue of the contemporary cast at times feels a bit contrived. Fans of Mary Downing Hahn will love this one. (Horror. 10-14)
Read an Excerpt
Welcome to Laurel Oaks Plantation.
I’m frightfully glad you’re here.
· Do not attempt to enter the General Cambridge Suite at the far end of the gallery.
· The golden key opens the door at the bottom of the steep staircase leading to the dark belly of the house. BEWARE THE TWELFTH STEP.
· Keys wait in the doors of your rooms at the top of the stairs. The Eberly room is on your right; the Brookes and Gladstone rooms are on your left. Choose wisely.
· Caution: Do not, DO NOT turn out the light in the hall. When the last light at Laurel Oaks is snuffed out, the spirits are released to take their pleasure.
· There are no phones in the house. There is no one in the house but you. Lock your door from the inside. Carefully. Rest in peace.