The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery – Allison Rushby


         The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery – Allison Rushby, Candlewick Press, (9780763696856), 2018.

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5:  (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Historical fiction, Ghost story

What did you like about the book? Flossie Birdwhistle is an unusually young turnkey (think ghostly den mother) at the Highgate Cemetery in World War II-era London as she was only twelve when she passed away from rheumatic fever. Now, non-stop bombing of the city keeps her busy settling the newly dead into a peaceful rest. So, when she spots an out-of-place ghost wearing a Nazi uniform and clutching a mysterious artifact, she is tempted to just ignore it. However, her sense of duty forces her to discover his intentions. As she learns more, she calls for help upon the other turnkeys of London, and eventually, upon the graveyard denizens to help stop the evildoer. A secondary plot line follows a young girl that has been injured during recent bombing and hovers between life and death. Almost invariably, characters do the right thing, and a sense of duty towards fellowmen and country pervades. It is enjoyable to witness how Flossie manages her duties, “mothers” her patrons, and courageously overcomes seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Anything you didn’t like about it?   Personally, I had a little trouble with the fact that characters continued to grow and evolve after death. However, I think young readers will have no trouble accepting that as possible.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Recommended for readers in grades 4 – 6 that are looking for war stories, spy stories or ghost stories.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school libraries, middle school libraries, public libraries.

Where would you shelve it?  Shelve with Historical Fiction or Ghost Stories.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Top third of the pile.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Mary Melaugh, Marshall Middle School Library, Billerica, MA

Date of review:  8/28/18

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