THE TURNKEY OF HIGHGATE CEMETERY, by Allison Rushby, Candlewick, July 24, 2018, Hardcover, $15.99 (ages 8-12)
The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery is one of the books that got lost in the shuffle this summer. It tells the story of a ghost who’s the caretaker of a cemetery during WWII.
Flossie Birdwhistle is the Turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery. As Turnkey, it’s Flossie’s job to ensure that all the souls buried in the cemetery stay at rest. Not an easy job for a young ghost, but a task made especially difficult by World War II: London is being attacked every night by enemy bombers, and even the dead are unsettled. When Flossie encounters the ghost of a German soldier carrying a mysterious object that seems to exist in both the living and spirit worlds, she becomes suspicious — what is the officer up to? Before long, Flossie uncovers a sinister plot that could destroy not only her cemetery, but also her beloved country. Can Flossie and her ghostly friends stop the soldier before it’s too late? —Synopsis provided by Candlewick Press
To be honest, I had a slow start with The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery. I stopped and started it a few times both because of a poor connection with the book and personal issues. Once I finally was able to give it a chance, however, I found it compelling, though somewhat dark middle-grade read.
Based on the subject matter of The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery — ghosts, WWII, etc. — it’s pretty clear from the outset that it’s not going to be a “happy” book. But that’s not the mark of a good book. For me, a good book is one that leaves me satisfied, leaves me feeling like I was better for reading it. Better in that it edified or entertained me in some way. That’s how I left this book.
Once I settled in with Allison Rushby’s writing and Flossie as a character, The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery moved quickly and the story played out in unexpected ways. It’s worth giving this book a chance — at least from the library.
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