Stacie E, Reviewer
Last updated on 17 Aug 2017
I Recommend This Book
I Recommend This Book
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, by Lindsay Currie, is a middle-grade suspense novel that will give you chills and tickle your funny bone. In it, we meet seventh-grader Tessa and her quirky, artistic & loveable family. When her father's new job with the Chicago Symphony moves them from Florida to Illinois, the novel embarks on a storyline that will be familiar to many readers: the upheaval of Tessa's comfortable routine, leaving behind her best friend, and the tension of starting a new school in an unfamiliar place where she doesn't know anyone. But what makes this story unique is its basis in a real Chicago ghost story in history, and because I grew up near Chicago, I remembered it. This made the experience of reading the novel even more fascinating for me, but the mysterious ways in which Currie drops clues will keep all readers interested.
Not long after Tessa and her family have moved into their Chicago home, a greystone that is over a hundred years old, she begins seeing and hearing unusual, creepy things. Her mother's art supplies go inexplicably missing, there are mysterious drawings in her sketchpad, crying sounds in the night, and her brother's ventriloquist dummy doll cries real tears. There is a goosebump chill factor to Currie's writing that recalls R.L. Stine, and in fact there are small references in the book to 90s pop culture that seem to let readers know what the writer herself may have had experience with growing up. As an adult reader, these type of finds within a children's book are delicious. For young readers, I imagine it could lead them to new and interesting things!
Beyond the excitement of things that go bump in the night, the strength of this novel is in its characters and their developing friendships. Tessa's new friends - Andrew, Nina & Richie - each have unique personalities that spark off the page. In a book that could have focused completely on solving the mystery of Tessa's haunted house, it also became a story about the importance of friendship. Tessa's friends play an integral part in her journey of beginning a new school, learning to navigate a new city and helping her solve a mystery over a century old. Also deserving of a mention is that there is a girl who hangs a bit on the edges of Tessa's new friendships - Cassidy, a girl who isn't immediately welcoming and Tessa doesn't know why. Though not given a lot of attention, this part of the story is important because it is through a challenging relationship like this that middle-grade readers will feel the story's reality. Middle school is tough,. Making new friends is tough. Understanding our differences is....really tough. But, as Tessa learns, seeing our truths is important.
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street is ultimately a book about challenge, independence, friendship and the importance of figuring out who we really are. These seemingly heavy topics are made lighter by wrapping them inside of a spine-tingling ghost story. Kids will love the laughs, chills and moments of sweetness it brings, and hopefully look beyond the book for information on the real Chicago ghost legend itself. When I finished the book, it made me nostalgic to return home myself, and perhaps visit Graceland Cemetery to see the famed statue of one brave girl. But before I make the journey, I'll be sure to call my friends.