Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Girl in the Lake

Brown, India Hill. The Girl in the Lake
January 4th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Celeste has never been comfortable in the water and has just "failed" her last attempt at swimming lessons. This is important because she is going to spend the summer at Grandad Jim and Grandma Judy's summer house on a lake, and she will be expected to spend a lot of time in the water. Her brother Owen, who is afraid of creatures in the woods, will be coming along. Her cousin Daisy, who is younger and dresses and acts like she is a child in the 1950s, is afraid of thunderstorms. Her older cousin Capri is a good track athlete, but is afraid of driving. She's mean to Celeste at first, but this is a reaction to the grandparents expecting her to drive the other children around. Celeste realizes that she looks almost exactly like her great aunt Ellie, but her grandmother won't give her any details about her sister. When the house seems to be haunted, with lights flashing in the attic, whispered voices, and Celeste seeming to be in two places at once, the children want to find out what is going on. At the same time, Celeste starts to take swimming lessons from her grandfather, who was a big proponent of young Blacks learning to swim at a time when this was not encouraged, and Celeste experiences some of the prejudice and discrimination against Black people in public pools in her own community. After some bad experiences with Ellie's ghost, even though their grandmother assures them that Ellie isn't dangerous, the children try out a theory to see if they can bring Ellie, and themselves, to peace. 
Strengths: The best part of this book was the history of the grandparents being involved in the 1960s with racial issues, and the information about the experiences of Blacks and swimming during that time period. It was great to see that the grandparents were able to have a summer place, and summers with grandparents should be a more frequent topic of middle grade books! If family history can be brought in, even better! The children's fears are all real but also possible to overcome. The fact that the grandparents weren't convinced there was a ghost was realistic, and there were a couple of nicely scary scenes where Ellie wreaks some havoc. This was a fast paced and intriguing title. 
Weaknesses: Ellie's hauntings take a really interesting twist, but one which makes her far less threatening as a ghost. 
What I really think: I'm buying this one, since The Forgotten Girl is constantly checked out, and will hope that readers will check it out hoping for the scary story the cover promises, but keep reading because the history and family dynamics are so interesting. This could have been much scarier.

Ms. Yingling

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