Written by Jenny Goebel
Published by Scholastic Press (November 2013)
Interest Level: 3rd-7th Grade
Reading Level: Lexile-860; DRA-60; Guided Reading-W
Available in hardback, paperback, Kindle, or Nook
You may want to sleep with your flashlight handy.
Bernie is used to weird and creepy. After all, her dad is a tombstone engraver. But something just doesn’t seem right when Abbot Stein comes to work for her family’s business. How exactly does he manage to engrave the images of those people so quickly? It’s almost as though he knows when each person is going to die. Bernie is determined to find out what’s really happening.
Who can possibly help her? Mama stays in bed all day, sick with grief over a tragic loss, while Dad and Mimi keep the business running. Bernie just might be on her own—that is until the most annoying boy on earth insists on interfering with her plans.
Goebel takes us back and forth between her vivid descriptions of the spooky tombstone engraving trade and the quaint, small town life that Bernie and her family lead. Meanwhile, Bernie’s nervous pursuit of clues propels the story forward without sacrificing writing quality or voice.
While many books for this age group aim for really goofy or super scary, Goebel’s debut novel strikes a balance between suspenseful, humorous, and meaningful. She reels us in with Bernie’s suspicions regarding these eerily intricate engravings by the mysterious Abbot Stein. She makes us feel Bernie’s fear as the clues lead her to alarming conclusions and ache with her as she tries to talk with her broken-hearted mother. Goebel also makes us laugh as Bernie finally allows the perpetual nuisance, Michael Romanov, to help her with her secret investigation.
Grave Images will intrigue middle school students, as well as elementary students who are ready to move beyond those chapter books. Children and teens who enjoy this book may also want to read Goebel’s latest releases: Fortune Falls and Mission Hurricane, the latest in The 39 Clues: Doublecross series.