Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spooky Pick: The Secret of Laurel Oaks

The Secret of Laurel Oaks

The Secret of Laurel Oaks
by Lois Ruby
Tom Doherty Associates, 2010
274 pages

Thirteen year old Lila has been hearing and seeing strange things ever since family friend and Jemez pueblo member Roberto died. Now that she and her family are visiting Laurel Oaks, a haunted plantation in Louisiana, Lila sees and hears far more than she wants to. When the ghost of a slavegirl named Daphne appears to her and asks Lila for help, Lila knows that she can't pretend she doesn't see the spirits.

Daphne hasn't been able to pass on to the other side, whatever or wherever it may be. Something is keeping her at Laurel Oaks. She has been hanging around the plantation for two centuries, trying to get someone to see or hear her, and finally Lila shows up and seems to have the powers. Daphne didn't poison the Judge's wife and daughters, but she may know who did. Daphne has been trusted by the Judge's wife to pass on her porceline bebes, figurines that were treasured by the wife, and Daphne wants Lila to find them.

Can the mystery be solved? Will the treasure ever be found? Will Daphne's name be cleared after all these years? And what about Lila--will she forever be at the spirits' beck and call?

Chapters are told in turn by Lila in the present and Daphne in the past--during the slave days of the South. Daphne tells of a life in the big house and learning hoodoo from Birdie--a slave woman gifted in spells, witchcraft, and the healing arts. The author weaves a story rich with superstitions and folklore brought from Africa and practiced among slaves in the South.

Readers who like ghost stories or mysteries will like this novel. Spooky and satisfying, the setting of Laurel Oaks and the creepy Louisiana backwoods and swamps make this novel come alive.

Recommended grades 6-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for my library. I received no monetary compensation for my review.

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