While tracking clues from a secret code penciled in the margins of mystery novels at a public library, Derek Knowles-Collier discovers a time capsule that may finally put his haunting past to rest. At Queensview Elementary, sixth-grade students are required to complete a community service unit as part of their school curriculum. Derek was sick when groups were assigned, so he is stuck with what’s left: landscape and repair duty at the local cemetery. Derek is not happy about his assignment. When he was very...
While tracking clues from a secret code penciled in the margins of mystery novels at a public library, Derek Knowles-Collier discovers a time capsule that may finally put his haunting past to rest. At Queensview Elementary, sixth-grade students are required to complete a community service unit as part of their school curriculum. Derek was sick when groups were assigned, so he is stuck with what’s left: landscape and repair duty at the local cemetery. Derek is not happy about his assignment. When he was very young, his friend Dennis was killed by a car after running into the road to catch a ball. Ever since, Derek has had recurring nightmares. It’s a relief when his group’s lessons on all aspects of cemetery care are so interesting that Derek doesn’t have time to dwell on his experience with death. One day, a book arrives at the library, an anonymous donation. While reading the book, Derek and his group find a secret code written on an inside margin. Through a series of discoveries and deductions, Derek and his friends discover the truth behind Dennis' death, which means that Derek is finally able to put his terrifying memories (and his nightmares) to rest.
When Derek was a little boy, he witnessed the death of one his friends. When he is assigned to work at a cemetery as part of the sixth-grade service project, Derek is worried that he will be haunted by memories from the past. Derek soon discovers that there is more to the cemetery than old tombstones. The cemetery director, Creelman, might be a little creepy, but he has a lot of strange and interesting knowledge and Derek, in spite of his misgivings, is learning a lot about cemetery care. On rainy days Derek and his friends, Merilee and Pascal, move their cemetery service duty to the nearby public library. In the library, Merilee discovers a book with a mysterious, handwritten code inside. Together, the children search for clues and follow a trail that may just help Derek find peace. Derek's story is simple but well-told. Children will enjoy the mystery and easily relate to the feelings that Derek is dealing with. Reviewer: Natalie Gurr
A sixth-grade community-service project at the town cemetery leads to mystery, new friendships and a cathartic resolution for a troubled young boy. He and his fellow project members, each with their own quirks, meet first at the library, where they learn about cemetery maintenance from a group of elderly men led by Mr. Creelman, who barks out information and gives pop quizzes. Along the way, they discover a mystery book with a secret code scribbled in the margins, and they find all kinds of interconnections among Mr. Creelman, other members of the community, past and present, and a time capsule. The project unleashes a host of painful memories for Derek, who has persistent nightmares involving his best friend, Dennis, who was hit by a car and killed when he was chasing a ball that Derek had kicked. Kerrin makes it all work. Derek tells his own story, allowing readers to empathize with his fears and struggles as he comes to grips with them. The supporting characters are pleasingly eccentric, and the action is fast-paced. The plot is convoluted and deals with some serious issues, but it all comes together in a manner that seems perfectly reasonable. There is even a secret code for readers to solve for themselves. Surprising twists and turns amid laughter and tears. (Fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher
“Going far beyond mystery book conventions, Spotted Dog Last Seen is also a well-told story of growth and self-forgiveness.” — School Library Journal, starred review
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Sixth-graders Derek, Pascal, and Merrilee are assigned volunteer work at the Twillingate Cemetery, assisting with gravestone upkeep, among other tasks. On rainy days, cotton-eyed Mr. Creelman, along with the eccentric Cemetery Brigade, instructs the trio in the nearby library on reading carvings, symbols, epitaphs, and the properties of different types of stones. Meanwhile, Merrilee discovers a trail of secret codes inside several mystery books that leads to a locker at school that is a time capsule. The more clues the friends find, the more secrets are unearthed. The more they learn from Creelman, the more Derek's fear of cemeteries lessens. Unfortunately, his nightmares about a childhood accident involving an orange rubber ball have returned to haunt him. Kerrin understands this age group and creates a sympathetic protagonist who will draw in readers. While the dialogue is sharp, the moments when Derek admits his most private feelings and recalls his nightmares for readers are standouts, as they portray authentic preteen feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and even guilt. Given the subject matter, the author strikes just the right balance between gloomy ambience and lighthearted humor. While the many plot threads seem to tangle here and there, the author delivers a satisfying conclusion with all loose ends tied up. Even though Derek experiences an upsetting loss, he finds closure. Going far beyond mystery book conventions, Spotted Dog is also a well-told story of growth and self-forgiveness.—Elly Schook, Jamieson Elementary School, Chicago
Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)
Meet the Author
Jessica Scott Kerrin is the author of the newly launched Lobster Chronicles series and the best-selling Martin Bridge series, which has sold over 140,000 copies to date. Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff was chosen by both the Horn Book and the New York Public Library as one of the best books of 2005. She lives with her family and pet tortoise in downtown Halifax, where she is surrounded by historic cemeteries. She is Director for Internet Strategies and Design for the Nova Scotia government’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. She lives in Halifax, Canada.