The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It’s waiting for Candice Miller.
When Candice finds the letter, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Grandma tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.
So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues in the letter. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the summer ends?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Alcohol, Vandalism, Name-calling
Booklist (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 5-7. From the author of The Great Greene Heist (2014) comes the exciting adventure of two kids searching for a hidden treasure. Candice’s summer has been the worst, until she finds a letter in her grandma’s attic that led to her grandma being driven out of their town of Lambert, South Carolina. The letter offers clues about the untold history of a young African American woman named Siobhan Washington and about a secret game of tennis. Candice teams up with Brandon, the boy next door, and dives into the hidden history of Lambert to finish what her grandma started. Following each new discovery, Johnson reveals a key moment in the past that uncovers a secret love and a great injustice. While Candice works through her parents’ divorce and moving, Brandon deals with being bullied by a boy from school. The mystery offers them a way to seek justice for Candice’s grandma, but it also helps them deal with their own struggles. A dazzling and emotional read that deals with serious topics such as bullying, racism, and divorce.
Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2018)
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)
About the Author
Varian Johnson is the author of several novels for children and young adults, including The Great Greene Heist, which was an ALA Notable Children’s Book, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014, and a Texas Library Association Lone Star List selection, and To Catch a Cheat, another Jackson Greene adventure and a Kids’ Indie Next List pick.
He lives with his family near Austin, Texas. His website is www.varianjohnson.com.
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