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Hazel Kaplansky is a firm believer in the pursuit of knowledge and truth-and she also happens to love a good mystery. When suspicions swirl that a Russian spy has infiltrated her small town of Maple Hill, Vermont, amidst the fervor of Cold War era McCarthyism, Hazel knows it's up to her to find a suspect… starting with Mr. Jones, the quietly suspicious grave digger. Plus she's found a perfect sleuthing partner in Samuel Butler, the new boy in school with a few secrets of his own. But as Hazel and Samuel piece ...
Hazel Kaplansky is a firm believer in the pursuit of knowledge and truth-and she also happens to love a good mystery. When suspicions swirl that a Russian spy has infiltrated her small town of Maple Hill, Vermont, amidst the fervor of Cold War era McCarthyism, Hazel knows it's up to her to find a suspect… starting with Mr. Jones, the quietly suspicious grave digger. Plus she's found a perfect sleuthing partner in Samuel Butler, the new boy in school with a few secrets of his own. But as Hazel and Samuel piece together clues from the past and present, the truth is suddenly not what they expected, and what they find reveals more about themselves and the people of their cozy little town than they could ever have imagined.
"There’s lots to talk about here . . . making this a great choice for book clubs or class discussion." —Booklist
"The sense of the time period is seamlessly portrayed . . . The real strength of Blakemore’s novel is the underlying juxtaposition of a seemingly pleasant small town and that community’s harsh reaction to those who are different." —The Horn Book Magazine
"A strong work of historical fiction for mystery fans." —School Library Journal
"Hazel is an engaging, if not always likable, girl, and her kid’s-eye-view of life offers an accessible entryway to the McCarthy/Cold War era. Blakemore’s characters are refreshingly three-dimensional . . . Will also appeal to the mystery lovers of the middle grade crowd." —BCCB
"Science, history and literature references glow . . . With keen intelligence and bits of humor, the prose slips calmly between narrative perspectives, trusting readers to pick up a revelation that Ephraim and Mallory don’t see—and it’s a doozy. This one is special." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on The Water Castle
"What shines through . . . is Blakemore’s tender understanding of how these children—and all children—feel about their lives and the adults who control them." —The New York Times on The Water Castle
"A book that deserves love." —Elizabeth Bird from Fuse8 on The Water Castle
"The Water Castle is full of adventure and mystery, but mostly it’s about the importance of family, friendship and home." —The Washington Post on The Water Castle
"Blakemore skillfully explores the intersection of science and magic in this multifaceted story . . . a sense of skeptical wonder pervades the book and lingers." —Publishers Weekly on The Water Castle
Posted September 13, 2014
This book was cute, but not what I was hoping for. The setting of a graveyard during the Cold War was fantastic. Hazel was a fun and entertaining protagonist that I loved reading about. Samuel is another great character and is very different from Hazel. They have to learn to accept each other and forgive each other as the occasion requires.
With great characters and a great setting, I expected more from the story, but it didn't measure up to my expectations. The mystery wasn't so much a mystery as it was speculation. It wasn't nearly as exciting or danger filled as I hoped for. It was more about Hazel and Samuel and them learning about friendship, gossip, and growing up. I think I would have liked the book more if my expectations had been different. As it was, I was expecting a mystery with a scary bad guy and instead got a book about friendship and small town rumors.
While I had hoped for a bigger mystery and higher stakes, it is still a good book. There aren't many books set in this time period, which makes this story unique in a way. This would be a fun read for middle grade kids that enjoy mild mysteries with interesting characters. If your child likes thrilling reads that will get their heart pounding, try a different book.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Cover: The cover is gorgeous. I love the illustration, and it makes the book look very mysterious.