Johnson has written a powerful novel for readers who, like Candice, "love a good mystery"…I love that
The Parker Inheritance presents compelling arguments against doing nothingand that Johnson's characters move through a range of responses to racism, a powerful way to enlarge conversations about injustice…Johnson writes about the long shadows of the past with such ambition that any reader with a taste for mystery will appreciate the puzzle Candice and Brandon must solve…Their adventure is also a quest for dignity and justice and a journey to understand each other. In a novel marked by scenes of pain and rage, their friendship, genuine and sustaining, is a great achievement.
The New York Times Book Review - Nalini Jones
After her parents divorce, 12-year-old Candice Miller begrudgingly moves with her mother from Atlanta to the small town of Lambert, S.C., for the summer. In the attic of Candice’s late grandmother’s house she finds a letter addressed to her grandmother, which promises treasure to the city if the letter’s puzzle can be solved. Candice then learns that her grandmother’s efforts to do so years earlier cost her both her reputation and her job as the first African-American city manager in Lambert. Candice digs into the mystery along with Brandon, an 11-year-old neighbor who is being bullied. The two bookworms have just a few months to find the fortune and repair Candice’s grandmother’s legacy, and they come to discover how racism has poisoned the town over the years. It’s a gripping mystery, and the plot shifts smoothly between Candice’s present-day story and flashback sections that reveal Lambert’s history of injustice. Johnson (To Catch a Cheat) addresses important issues gracefully, particularly having the freedom to live a life of one’s choosing and the long-lasting effects of discrimination. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (Mar.)
Awards and Praise for The Parker Inheritance:A Coretta Scott King Author Honor winnerA Boston Globe / Horn Book Honor winnerKirkus Reviews Best Books of the YearBookpage Best Books of the YearHorn Book Fanfare Best Books of the YearNPR Best Books of the YearNew York Public Library Top Ten Books of the YearChicago Public Library Best Books of the YearSchool Library Journal Best Books of the YearPublishers Weekly Best Books of the YearBoston Globe Best Books of the YearParents Magazine Best Books of the Year"Powerful.... Johnson writes about the long shadows of the past with such ambition that any reader with a taste for mystery will appreciate the puzzle Candice and Brandon must solve.... Their adventure is also a quest for dignity and justice and a journey to understand each other. In a novel marked by scenes of pain and rage, their friendship, genuine and sustaining, is a great achievement." The New York Times Book Review* "Johnson's latest novel holds racism firmly in the light. Candice and Brandon discover the joys and terrors of the reality of being African-American in the 1950s. Without sugarcoating facts or dousing it in post-racial varnish, the narrative lets the children absorb and reflect on their shared history. The town of Lambert brims with intrigue, keeping readers entranced until the very last page. A candid and powerful reckoning of history." Kirkus Reviews, starred review* "Johnson's Westing Game-inspired tale is a tangled historical mystery, a satisfying multigenerational family story, and an exploration of twentieth-century (and contemporary) race and racism.... His protagonist is intelligent, endearing, and believable; scenes with her father, especially, have both humor and poignancy. Well-placed textual clues keep historical context and race relations at the front of readers' minds-and examining those constructs, ingeniously, provides the key to solving the mystery." The Horn Book, starred review* "Part historical fiction, part critical problem-solving exercise, part suspenseful mystery, this story weaves through the past and present of one town's struggle with hatred and racism.... The characters are varied, authentic, and well developed. The plot moves along quickly and seamlessly between the past and present, with chapters from the 1950s shaded in light gray for a smart visual effect. The present day isn't sugarcoated, showing readers that racial equity is still an unresolved problem. Appended author notes offer additional context, making it an excellent link to social studies or history units. A must-purchase." School Library Journal, starred review* "Johnson takes his readers on a whirlwind expedition with two exceptionally bright kids as they connect the dots of this mystery and gain insights into their own families' secrets. The author flashes back to earlier eras to fill out the backstory of the town and the treasure, creating a vivid portrait of the cultural and demographic changes in a South Carolina town, and he creates a narrative that's both a compelling mystery and a powerful commentary on identity, passing, and sacrifice. Fans of The Westing Game, which gets several textual shoutouts, and other puzzling mysteries such as Balliett's Chasing Vermeer will appreciate the twists and turns of this meaningful tale." The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, starred review"A clever puzzle, a hidden treasure, and a couple of kids you'll wish were your friends...Dive in!" Sara Pennypacker, author of Pax"Varian Johnson delivers once again with this rewarding mix of relevant history and challenging mystery!" Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky"With a nod to The Westing Game, Varian Johnson has penned a smart mystery that deftly explores the history of racial segregation in the South, modern-day discrimination, friendship, love and bullying.... beautifully written, this complex story will captivate an adult audience as well." Bookpage"Realistic and complex." School Library Connection"A dazzling and emotional read that deals with serious topics such as bullying, racism, and divorce." Booklist"A gripping mystery." Publishers Weekly" The Parker Inheritance is a clever puzzle wrapped in an urgent and compassionate novel that will capture readers from the first chapter." Shelf Awareness"You guys aren't prepared for this emotionally-true historical mystery that'll keep you guessing the whole way through." YAYOMG!"If you loved The Westing Game or the Mr. Lemoncello books, you will love The Parker Inheritance." Prose and Kahn"Love this book! It is the perfect combination of historical and contemporary with the connections between them clearly delineated." Sara Hines, Eight Cousins Bookshop"Absorbing...weaves together a suspenseful, honest story." Angela Maria Spring, Duende District Bookstore"What an amazing book! A first-rate mystery, The Parker Inheritance will keep kids guessing throughout the entire book....This is an excellent book for learning about the historical and present day effects of racial discrimination." Youth Services Book Review"On top of the historical and current importance, there also was a great mystery that you are challenged to figure out which made the book even more enjoyable to read." Dad of Divas' Reviews"An excellent book." The Book Nut"The Parker Inheritance is a remarkable and rich book, one that kept me reading late into the night, absorbed and captivated. It is a story of friendship and family, of race and racism, of past and present, with a tantalizing and puzzling mystery at its core. While it references most cleverly Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, the book has a sensibility that is all its own. Fresh, original, timely, it is an outstanding read." Monica Edinger, Teacher at Dalton
Gr 4–6—Part historical fiction, part critical problem-solving exercise, part suspenseful mystery, this story weaves through the past and present of one town's struggle with hatred and racism. Candice and her mother have moved temporarily from Washington, D.C., to her mother's hometown in Lambert, SC, while her parents finalize the plans of their amicable divorce. Candice is miserable until she meets Brandon and finds an old letter addressed to her from her deceased grandmother with a puzzle enclosed. Twenty years prior, her grandmother had tried unsuccessfully to solve the puzzle that would yield a great deal of money to the town and the person who solved it. Together, Candice and Brandon make their own attempt. Who were Enoch, Leanne, and Siobhan Washington? How does an illegal tennis match played in 1957 between the white Wallace School and African American Perkins School factor into the solution? The characters are varied, authentic, and well developed. The plot moves along quickly and seamlessly between the past and present, with chapters from the 1950s shaded in light gray for a smart visual effect. The present day isn't sugarcoated, showing readers that racial equity is still an unresolved problem. Appended author notes offer additional context, making it an excellent link to social studies or history units. VERDICT A must-purchase for most libraries, especially where Johnson's previous titles have fans.—Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH
Summer is off to a terrible start for 12-year old African-American Candice Miller. Six months after her parents' divorce, Candice and her mother leave Atlanta to spend the summer in Lambert, South Carolina, at her grandmother's old house. When her grandmother Abigail passed two years ago, in 2015, Candice and her mother struggled to move on. Now, without any friends, a computer, cellphone, or her grandmother, Candice suffers immense loneliness and boredom. When she starts rummaging through the attic and stumbles upon a box of her grandmother's belongings, she discovers an old letter that details a mysterious fortune buried in Lambert and that asks Abigail to find the treasure. After Candice befriends the shy, bookish African-American kid next door, 11-year-old Brandon Jones, the pair set off investigating the clues. Each new revelation uncovers a long history of racism and tension in the small town and how one family threatened the black/white status quo. Johnson's latest novel holds racism firmly in the light. Candice and Brandon discover the joys and terrors of the reality of being African-American in the 1950s. Without sugarcoating facts or dousing it in post-racial varnish, the narrative lets the children absorb and reflect on their shared history. The town of Lambert brims with intrigue, keeping readers entranced until the very last page.A candid and powerful reckoning of history. (Historical mystery. 8-12)