by Edith Cohn
Release Date September 9, 2014
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher
By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner's destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can't get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky's ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it's too late.
I am not typically a fast reader so it was unusual for me to finish Spirit's Key in 3 days. I found Spirit's story to be compelling and I just needed to find out how all the pieces fit together. The story is wonderfully told and perfect for middle graders. While it is a mild fantasy, the reader quickly accepts the fact that Spirit and her father have the power to see the future and that Spirit sees the ghost of her dog as the story progresses. I loved the relationship between Spirit and the reclusive, crotchety Mrs. Borse. I also enjoyed her developing friendship with fellow islander Nector whom she decides to trust with her secret.
The press release describes Spirit's Key as "Savvy meets Winn Dixie" and I feel that is a spot-on description. I loved it and can't wait to share it with my students. It would make a fabulous read aloud, book club book or independent read for grades 4-8. Spirit's Key is the debut novel for Edith Cohn and I hope to read many more of her books in the future. Spirit's Key is available now!
Below is a guest post by the author. I would like to thank Edith for describing her inspirations for Spirit's Key.
Guest Post by Edith Cohn
Spirit’s Key is a mystery about a twelve-year-old psychic girl named Spirit who works with the ghost of her pet dog to solve a crime on a remote island filled with magic keys, wild dogs and superstitious characters.
The book had several inspirations. The first was a dog named Marisol who went missing. Marisol belonged to my dear friend, and I helped her search the city for her lost pet. I saw Marisol everywhere, even though it was never really her. It was kind of like seeing her ghost, which led me to the idea of a ghost dog. I have a dog myself, and I like imagining that while my fur baby won't live forever, maybe her spirit will come back to play with me!
The setting of SPIRIT’S KEY, the fictional Bald Island, is deeply inspired by the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I grew up going to the Banks. But I also read a lot of history about their hurricanes, their whaling, and their one room schoolhouse. I even read about an islander who was a hermit and wore furs, which inspired Spirit’s eccentric neighbor Mrs. Borse. And it seems so unreal, but in SPIRIT’S KEY, the islanders’ belief that yaupon tea can cure anger actually comes from something real.
Of course, I took fictional liberties. I decided my island would have wild dogs instead of wild horses like the real Outer Banks. I live in the hills of California, and I have coyotes in my backyard. They want to eat my little dog Leia. Every spotting takes my breath away–reminds me of our mortality, the wonder of nature and what it means to be a wild thing.
My niece at the time was becoming a vegetarian. And I also got to thinking about how kids are still figuring out what they believe. One of my favorite things about SPIRIT’S KEY is this discussion about animal rights and beliefs.
The idea of magic keys that can tell the future is one of the only eccentricities of island life that didn’t come from something I read about the Banks. Spirit and her father have a gift. If they hold someone’s house key, they can see that person’s future. This idea came straight from the wilds of my imagination.