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The Seer of Shadows

The Seer of Shadows

4.7 20
by Avi

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Newbery Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales—about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge.

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society


Newbery Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales—about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge.

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora.

Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her.

Rich in detail, full of the magic of early photography, here is a story about the shadows, visible and invisible, that are always lurking near.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Newbery Medalist Avi (Crispin: The Cross of Lead) sets this intriguing ghost story in 19th-century New York City, where a photographer's apprentice has a horrifying run-in with a spirit bent on revenge. In the fall of 1872, 14-year-old narrator Horace Carpetine reluctantly becomes involved in his employer's scheme to dupe a superstitious client, wealthy Mrs. Von Macht. The plan is to make a tidy profit by producing a double exposure and offering her an unusual portrait, one incorporating a superimposed image of her dead daughter, Eleanora. Events depart from the expected when the ghost of Eleanora literally enters the picture, and Horace discovers his ability to capture departed souls on film. Suspense builds as the Von Machts' servant, Pegg, reveals secrets about the Von Macht family and explains that Eleanor's angry spirit, brought back into the world through the camera lens, may want revenge on both Mrs. Von Macht and her husband. Mirroring both the style and themes of gothic novels of the period, the story takes ghastly and ghostly turns that challenge Horace's belief in reason. Details about photographic processes add authenticity, while the book's somber ending will leave spines tingling. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 15.

Horace is a 14-year-old photographer’s apprentice in New York City in 1872, and his ambitious and dishonest boss has just received a new commission. A society woman wants a photograph of herself to put on her dead daughter Eleanora’s grave, she says, though her reasons are not as sentimental as they first seem. The photographer plans to add a ghostly image of the girl to the portrait (this was possible even pre-Photoshop!), to make it special and ensure more commissions, he hopes. He assigns Horace to secretly take photos of the images of Eleanora in the woman’s home for this purpose, but Horace’s photos unexpectedly do more than that: they conjure up the actual ghost of the girl, who is out for revenge. According to Pegg, an African American servant girl in the household who befriends Horace, Eleanora was the woman’s niece, not her daughter. Eleanora was valued only for her inheritance, and cruelly neglected until she died. Together, Horace and Pegg must figure out how to thwart the murderous ghost’s plans for vengeance. This spooky tale by the author of Crispin and many other books for young readers captures the era nicely. There are lots of details about photography as well as information about the racism of the time, and Horace’s transition from proudly logical young man to believer in spirits is credible. This ghost story isn’t too creepy for middle school readers, and it works well as a historical novel, too. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Horace Carpentine is apprenticed to Mr. Middleditch, a photographer who sometimes inserts ghostly images of loved ones to drum up more business from the grief-stricken. When he sends Horace to help him with his latest scam, Horace is shocked to realize that one of his photographs contains the image of Eleanora, a girl who died under mysterious circumstances. Pegg, a servant of Eleanora's parents, claims the girl was murdered. Each photograph Horace takes shows progressively clearer images of the dead girl, but that is not what truly frightens Horace. He has started to see Eleanora even without the use of a camera. Horace and Pegg now need to figure out how to put Eleanora to rest before she destroys her adopted parents who caused her death. In perhaps his best work yet, Avi has created a truly chilling tale that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned and the lights are turned out. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck
VOYA - Eric Spargo
Horace Carpentine is an apprentice photographer to the dishonest Mr. Middleditch. When they are hired to take a picture for Mrs. Frederick Von Macht with the help of her servant Pegg, Horace soon realizes the terrible truth about the Von Macht's daughter's death. This book is a good read for any ghost story lovers. Reviewer: Eric Spargo, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Cynthia Winfield
Articulate, literate, and numerate, fourteen-year-old Horace is touted as "a model youth for the industrial age" by his philosophical, abolitionist, and radical-Republican father whose children are named for political and social icons of the time. A watch repairman who believes in science and rational thought, Horace's father arranges his youngest son's apprenticeship during post-Civil War New York City in a scientific endeavor with Enoch Middleditch, self-proclaimed society photographer, whose excellent teaching is offset by his laziness and struggling business. Middleditch turns on flattery and charm and eagerly defrauds patrons for financial gain. Unwillingly Horace becomes entangled in a fraudulent scheme to present a rich woman with photographic "evidence" that her daughter's ghost lingers nearby. Youthful honesty contrasted against adults' deceptive flatteries builds reader empathy for narrator Horace's position when Middleditch's hoax paired with Horace's heretofore-unknown photographic sensitivity unintentionally unleash an angry ghost upon the Von Macht household. Horace's resourcefulness and his new friendship with the Von Macht's black servant Pegg are key to solving this suspenseful drama. Avi's rich language evokes images and speech patterns of a bygone era, and his careful chronicling of early photography's art and science make this novel a pleasure to read. Strong male and female teen characters appeal to a broad readership from science fiction, suspense, and ghost story aficionados to photography and history buffs. The refined vocabulary will not deter reluctant readers. Reviewer: Cynthia Winfield
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
A blustery evening calls for a good ghost story, and Newbery medalist Avi offers one thick with spooks and intrigue. In New York City in 1872, a young photographer's assistant, Horace Carpetine, is asked to take a photographic portrait of Mrs. Frederick Von Macht, a society matron. Each photo, though, is marred by a blurred image—that of the woman's dead niece, Eleanora. With the help of a servant girl, Pegg, Horace tries to discover why Eleanora's spirit has returned and how to help her find rest. Avi enriches his suspenseful tale with well-researched historic details, information about the science and art of early photography and an elegant writing style. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
Kirkus Reviews
In 1870s New York, at the intersection of scientific advances in photography and post-Civil War superstition, sentimentality and mourning, Horace's father apprentices him to a spirit photographer. He discovers that, while his employer is a swindler, Horace himself is a "seer" on whose photographs genuine ghostly images appear. In this way, he discovers the ghost of a young heiress whose ill treatment at the hands of her adoptive parents has led to her death. When her angry spirit returns seeking revenge, Horace tries to put her ghost to rest and save lives. Avi portrays a complex main character who is torn between his impulse toward honesty and rational thought, his love of the new technology of photography and his need for employment. This tale proves that the time-honored ghost story, capably researched, well-paced and fusing the Gothic elements of mystery, madness and romance, can still thrill in the hands of a skilled craftsman. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Seer of Shadows

Chapter One

It was an October morning in the year 1872, and New York City's air was so befogged with white mist and dark smoke that I could barely see across the street. All the same I was attending to my daily chore of sweeping our small front court with its painted sign:

Enoch Middleditch
Society Photographer

Chancing to look up, I was startled to see a black girl standing just beyond our low iron gate. It was as if she had just stepped out of the haze, dressed in her somber cotton servant's garb. A tiny wisp of curly black hair poked out from beneath her white cap. Though clearly she was a servant, her posture was upright, quite proud, and not at all deferential. I judged her to be about the same age as I, fourteen; but her smooth face, round and dark, seemed devoid of emotion until I noticed her eyes: They were full of a deep and brooding intensity.

My first thought was that she was looking at me, but then I realized it was our sign that held her attention.

"May I help you?" I asked.

She turned her gaze upon me. "Who are you?"

The question, asked so bluntly, was unexpected. "I'm Mr. Middleditch's apprentice."

"Does he make portraits?"

"Portraits, cartes de visite, and studies."

"My mistress, Mrs. Frederick Von Macht, requires a portrait."

"Then you've come to the right place."

"Good," said the girl. "She will be at your door tomorrow, at two."

Though surprised by her presumption, I said, "I'll tell my employer," perfectly aware that Mr. Middleditch had no pressingmatters to attend to. Business was anything but lively.

With a curt nod the girl turned and walked away, vanishing into the mist as eerily as she had appeared.

Not only did I wonder where she'd come from and gone to, I was uncertain whether to believe her or not. But knowing it would be a good thing if her mistress did come for a sitting, I put aside such questions and hurried into our rooms to inform Mr. Middleditch that he actually had a customer.

Still, there was something very unsettling about the girl, so much so that I could not get her out of my mind. Was it the way she'd suddenly appeared and disappeared into the mist? Was it the tone of her voice? Was it the brooding look in her eyes?

That said, I shall be the first to admit there was nothing about her appearance to foretell the extraordinary events that were to follow.

The Seer of Shadows. Copyright © by Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at www.avi-writer.com.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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Seer Of Shadows (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seer of Shadows is a great book.it had a lot of details in it which helped me imagin the whole book. Horace and Pegg where great characters. Avi really did do a great job creating the voice of Pegg. Mrs.Von macht was a horibble character in the book. Poor elenora had to suffer so much threw out her life. good thing Pegg was always there for her. this book was very suspenceful, at some pionts of the book a even got the chills. elenoras return was very powerful with hate, but all she wanted was revenge. Horace was very confused and frightened when he saw a picture he didnt take. avi really out did himself with this book it was amazing.
Rawr99 More than 1 year ago
First you ask yourself, could you be a seer? When Horace took his very first photograph, something was odd. There was something lurking over Mrs. Von Match's shoulder, what could it be? When I showed Pegg, she had said it was the ghost of Elenora Von Match to seek revenge. Mrs. Von Match had said it was a tragedy, and she misses Elenora so much, or does she? Pegg was the servant of the Von Match's and she would to help Horace unravel the mystery of Elenora's death, and why she came back to haunt the Von Match's. I enjoyed this book; it was probably one of the best books I had ever read. I just couldn't put it down, it was so suspenseful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a amazing if you ghost story's you'll love this!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this story Horace is taking pictures and he captures Eleanora
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MightyB More than 1 year ago
This book is great!!!!!! It is boring until Horace starts seeing the ghost of Eleonora. Eleonora is trying to kill Mr and Mrs.VonMacht for revenge. Eleanora died from being starved and became to weak and died. The VonMachts lie about how much they love her and miss her. Horace, a photographer's apprentice, is a Seer of Showdows. He can bring ghost to life. Pegg, the VonMacht's servent, was like a sister to Eleonora. Horace and Pegg team up to help get rid of Eleonora's ghost to stop her plan to kill the VonMachts. This book is NOT voilent at all. It is not as scary as you can judge by the cover. This book is interesting and at some points you can't put it down. I used this book for a Reading Examine and there waas a lot of detail and made it easy to do. This is a"I must figure out how it ends" book.
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Homestar_Runner More than 1 year ago
In 1872, photography was still new technology. One of the main characters is a 14 year old called Horace, and his photography teacher is called Mr. Middleditch. Horace has been raised to believe in science. And as apprentice to a society photographer, horace likes to fancy his proffesion as a scientific art. But when a rich lady called Mrs. Von Macht orders a photo, really weird things start to happen, because Horace's first photographs reveal the image of Mrs. Von Macht's deceased daughter, Eleanora. Horace meets Pegg, Mrs. Von Macht's black servant girl, and she tells him about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Pegg and Horace form an unlikely friendship, and Horace finds out that his pictures actually freed Eleanora's ghost. Eleanora returns, and she is bent on punishing Mr. and Mrs. Von Macht for abusing her. The book is kind of like the Sixth Sense, and the Grudge mixed if I were to compare this book to two movies. It is a kid friendly horror story that turns out to actually be genuinley creepy, but it's writtend by the late Avi, who I'm quite a fan of, so I can't complain. All in all this book is an excellent horror story for adolescents. It's a very good book and that's why it deserves a well earned rating of 10 out of 10.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
It's 1872 in New York and Horace Carpetine is working as a photography apprentice. Photographer Mr. Middleditch is a little down on his luck and in need of a large profit from a client. So when they are approached by Mrs. Von Macht, who is grieving the loss of her only child and wishes a portrait to place on her daughter's grave, Mr. Middleditch comes up with an idea to make money.

The pair will make a ghostly likeness of Eleanora appear in Mrs. Von Macht's picture, and hopefully she will miss her daughter enough to order more photos.

Problems start to occur, though, when Horace takes a photograph and Eleanora's ghost really does appear -- without the assistance of photography.

With the help of Pegg, the Von Macht's servant girl, Horace finds out the horrible truth about Eleanora's death. Together the new friends must stop Eleanora's vengeful ghost from hurting her family.

This is a great historical mystery by Avi. The history is rich and I felt as though I was walking the streets with Horace and Pegg. The details provide an interesting look at early photography and how it worked. The mystery keeps readers engaged and has some chilling moments. Recommended for history, paranormal, and mystery fans alike!